The All-Important Thank You Note

This is an actual thank you note I received from an attorney after an interview. It doesn’t quite send a message of professionalism (but did remind me of Rowlf the dog from the Muppets).

“Please” and “thank you” go a long way.  We learned that in kindergarten and the lesson hasn’t changed since we graduated law school.  I was recently reminded of this when a friend’s son graduated from high school.  My wife and I made sure that we sent a thoughtful card with the gift that all high school graduates want: a check.  Since then, we haven’t heard anything from the graduate – no acknowledgement at all of the gift.  The graduate’s failure to send a thank you note has ruined his chance of future gifts.  Why?  Because everyone wants to think that the things they do for others is appreciated.

We’ve done blog posts on this topic, but it’s worth revisiting because we hear time and time again from employers that they never hear from candidates that they interview after their meeting is over.  A simple note acknowledging that someone took time out of their busy day to meet with you is always appropriate.

What to send

The email:  I always suggest that someone send an email to everyone that they met with immediately after the interview.  This can be a quick note to let them know that you appreciated their time and that you are processing what you learned in the meeting.

The letter:  After the interview, it makes sense to send the interviewer a note by mail (yes, the one where you need a stamp). This should have more detail than the email, but it should reiterate your appreciation for the time someone spent with you.  A typewritten letter is good, but if your handwriting is legible, a hand-written note is more thoughtful.

The hand-written note:  A note on professional stationary is what should be sent after the interview to those who met with you.  Your handwriting doesn’t have to be perfect, but it needs to be legible.  Please note that it should be on professional stationary (meaning not notebook paper) or on a thank you note (the bulk thank you notes form Target are probably just fine).  Avoid gimmicky or childish thank you notes.  The oddest thank you note I have received after an interview is pictured above: it’s a dog playing the piano.  What that has to do with finding a job in the legal career is beyond me, but it made me think that the candidate didn’t have the professionalism needed to be an attorney.

When to send it

We live in a society that expects instant gratification.  That’s why sending the initial email as soon as you get back home from an interview is important.  It provides instant gratification to the interviewer and gives them a chance to ask any immediate follow –up questions of you.

The thank you note you send through the US mail should be sent within 24 hours of your interview. This serves two purposes: you again show your appreciation and interest in the position and, maybe more importantly, you get the interviewer to think about you 2-3 days after your interview – at a time when they might be making a decision about hiring!

Who to send it to

You should send the thank you notes to everyone who took time to interview you.  The office manager or receptionist who simply showed you into a conference room can probably be left off the list.

Also, you should send these notes to anyone who assists you in your job search along the way.  This could be anyone who gives you an informational interview, a referral, recruiting or resume assistance and of course those who serve as your references.  If you are in doubt – send them a thank you note!


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