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Interview Thank-You Notes: An Essential Tool for Job Seekers Looking to Move Forward

TRU Staffing Partners February 23, 2023 at 8:00 AM

The professional thank-you note continues to be an essential part of the job interview process. During a recent LinkedIn Live event featuring Jodi Daniels, CEO and Founder of Red Clover Advisors, and Jared Coseglia, CEO and Founder of TRU Staffing Partners, discussed why hiring managers continue to put a lot of value on thank-you notes, and covered how to expertly write one. Read the recap below! 

Jared Coseglia: Does a job seeker have to send a thank-you note after a job interview?

Jodi Daniels: YES! I believe strongly in the thank-you note. A thank you shows thoughtfulness and respect for the interviewer’s time. It shows the interviewee took time to reflect on the conversation, summarize something interesting that happened, and communicate gratitude. It also shows how well the candidate can communicate and write, which is very important for many roles.

Send a thank-you note after a job interview within 24 hours

JC: How much time should elapse between the end of the interview, and this thank-you note?

JD: Within 24 hours is the best timeframe – so within a business day. It’s a little like dating. You must give some time or space between the conversation and the note, but not too much. It’s a similar context for the thank-you note.

JC: Is anyone still sending handwritten thank-you notes? Can they get there in time? Should I overnight-mail a handwritten letter? Is it worth debating handwritten versus electronic thank-you notes?

JD: As much as people love handwritten notes, it would be very difficult to wait days for a note to arrive by mail. That job could be long gone. Nowadays, people are expecting email.

JC: I think it depends on the intent. If you separate the intent of giving courtesy and thanks from the process, too much time has passed by the time a mailed letter gets there. But it also depends on which round of interview you are in. If you have been through four or six interviews, maybe it is appropriate to send some kind of handwritten thoughtful note to whomever the primary point of contact is. But it shouldn’t matter whether you’ve been notified that you have gotten the job by the time they get that letter. Anything that is handwritten must be a separate agenda. I agree with you – if you are sending that thank-you note, which you should do, it does need to be sent within 24 hours. It should reinforce that you are still interested in the position.

TRU found that in the first quarter of 2022, jobs were going off the market within 8 to 12 business days, so job seekers weren’t doing handwritten thank-you letters then. Even now, where the speed of hire for a mid-market professional is fewer than 30 days, it’s often too short a window for a handwritten note. The note must be much more about what a person is saying, how quickly they are saying it, and used as a weapon to help a person advance in the job search process.

JD: It’s important to add that in this era of remote work, you have a lot of people working at home, and I might not want to give you my home address. If a candidate sends a written letter to a corporation, and the hiring manager is not there, it may be a challenge for that candidate to distinguish themselves from the other candidates. What I do think is cool is to perhaps send a thank-you video – just a little bit more than an email thank-you note.

JC: Fascinating. I have never received a video thank-you note. But I think there’s so much opportunity for failure in a video because most people think they are going to be their best impromptu selves by just talking to a camera and saying thanks. Usually that backfires. On the flip side, if people try to read a script and aren’t good at it, they may come off as inauthentic. It’s a constant balance with video. It’s like Zooming — you have to be very careful about how authentic you are versus how professional you are. And, remember that you are inviting people into your home. I remember being very resistant to Zooming when the pandemic first happened because it felt invasive. But now it’s an expectation of availability and professionalism.

Jodi, what are you looking for in that thank-you letter? What are some of the best thank you letters that have stood out to you, and why?

The three most important elements of a job interview thank-you note

JD: The ones that have stood out really summarized an interesting point in the conversation, or they have stated how they will add value or bring their skills to help the organization, and why they want to work for my organization. I look for the ways they will help, and why they are a great candidate.

JC: What are the top three things job seekers should include in their thank you notes?

First, reiterate at least one salient point of the interview to show the interviewer that what they have said has been heard, received, and can be re-articulated in writing within a 24-hour period.

Connecting these dots and seeing that happen with a job seeker is the main reason why we expect people to send thank you notes.

JD: The second thing to include is the reason why the candidate is great for the job. The note should include what they are going to bring that’s different than what someone else will bring to the table. At the same time, if the candidate can include a fun or important fact about the conversation, include that as well. Try to bring your personality to it and how you would “show up” in a professional way.

It’s not always 100% about business – it may be about where you both went to school, or maybe you noticed something interesting in the background during the Zoom chat.

JD: Third, use spellcheck and check your grammar, reading through every part of the note carefully. Be careful to spell the person’s name correctly and make sure there are no typos.

JC: If someone has a typo in their thank-you letter, is that an immediate disqualification for you?

JD: It depends on what the typo is. But if they spell my name wrong... that’s not a good sign.

JC: If someone does not send a thank-you note at all, is that an immediate disqualification?

JD: I feel strongly that thank-you notes are a very important requirement – it shows interest in the role, respect, thoughtfulness, and how well the person communicates. The roles in this organization hinge greatly on good communication. I want to hire kind, thoughtful people who will say “Thank you” in the right instances. They should be thank-you-oriented people. The thank-you note is an extension of being a thank-you-oriented person.

JC: It goes beyond basic courtesy and saying thanks, which is obvious, but I see a lot of people ONLY saying thank you, and not much else. If I see a letter that just says thank you for your time, that’s kind of an immediate disqualification for me, if they are coming to work for my organization. But you bring up another interesting topic, which is tone and being able to express emotionality and kindness. Let me ask you this: How much is too much?

Going beyond thank-you: Connecting the dots to get the job

JD: Well, the thank-you note is not meant to be a cover letter or to summarize your resume. It’s not meant to be a regurgitation of a person’s work history. It should be simple and sincere.

JC: I don’t think it can be too long unless it’s got the wrong content in it. I have an example that happened recently: I’ve got a candidate who’s incredibly articulate, a very good writer who went for an interview, but did not have all the skills the employer was looking for. But this person used his thank-you email to connect the dots in writing to show what the role required, what he was going to do to bridge the gap in his knowledge, and what the result and impact would be for the client. It was 400 words or so – I had to scroll a little bit to review it. It was beautiful and the guy got the job offer two days later. It expressed a level of thoughtfulness and detail that drew the reader in.

JD: That makes a lot of sense. The candidate didn’t regurgitate, he was trying to show that potential employer that he could do what they needed. Doing something like this is important – it may have made the difference for that person getting the job or not.

JC: Jodi, do you tell candidates during interviews that you expect them to send you a thank-you note?

JD: I do not do that. A few times candidates have asked me for my email address so that they can send me a thank-you note, which I like hearing. The reason I don’t bring it up is I don’t want to have to ask someone to thank someone. I want them to know how to follow up. That’s important to me in all the roles we have. That note shows me that someone is proactive and follows through on important things.

Jared, after my conversation with you, where you told me that you do advise people to send a thank-you note, I tried it, and it works. In one case, where I shared a candidate interview with several other people, I got a thank-you note, and they didn’t. It showed me that the candidate was great at taking direction but didn’t take the initiative to thank the other interviewers – a big disqualifier for me. I want someone who is able to think on their own. I want to see what people do on their own, without explicit direction.


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