Working the Interview Follow-up

by Anya Jennings on January 26, 2010

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I know I’ve mentioned interview follow-ups in the past, but I can’t stress enough how important it is to send that thank you note. Beyond common courtesy, an effective thank you note gives you an opportunity to cement who you are in the mind of an interviewer who may have seen a dozen other people with comparable qualifications on the same day.


The most important interview to follow up is the one you think you aced. There’s nothing worse than walking out with supreme confidence, sure that the job’s in the bag…and then waiting by the phone for a call that doesn’t come. Maybe you and the interviewer really were simpatico. Maybe you really did convince him you were the perfect person for the job. Maybe you had everything he was looking for. Maybe you made the short list. But maybe he forgot which résumé belonged to you…and you didn’t follow up. An effective thank you note is what will make him reconnect your presence with your name, and it could just land you the job.

There are a few strategies when writing thank you notes and the one you elect to use should depend on the context and tone of the interview. This is a marketing tool in the bid to sell yourself, and should add a subtle selling point to your presentation. Here are a few dos and don’ts:

Do address perceived roadblocks, like flaws in your experience or holes in your resume. For example, you could cover a long (and fruitless) job search by saying that this is the perfect type of career job you’ve been holding out for – in a company you can respect and feel proud to work for. It’s a little compliment to the company, and an implication that you’ll fit in, without a hint of desperation. Which reminds me…

Don’t be desperate. Don’t beg for the job, overemphasize your skills, or mention other companies who have approached you. Those tactics might work for a car salesman, but unless you’re the only competent candidate who applies and your services really are in a bidding war (*ahem* get real), hardballing the interviewer will land your application where it belongs, in the circular file.

Do add that extra note of confidence that you are suited and booted for the job. For example, if the interviewer tells you that they are experiencing some team cohesion issues, mention that you hope your experience as a team player, coupled with your excellent communications skills, will help build the team cooperation the company seeks.

Don’t send it snail mail. Email is better for three reasons: speed (they don’t call it snail mail for nothing), easy reference, and to establish another line of communication in case the interviewer is deciding between two candidates and wants something clarified. Fast response also shows that you’re organized, motivated, and methodical.

Do keep the tone of your thank you note just a little more formal than the interview itself. If the interviewer got personal, it’s perfectly ok to end the note with a mention. For example, if he mentioned that his daughter would graduate college this week, end the note with “Congratulations again on your daughter Sarah’s graduation. You must be very proud of her.” –Note the intimate message and formal tone. It shows you were paying attention to him, but doesn’t get overly personal or obsequious.

One last tip: keep it fairly short, no more than 3 paragraphs with 2-4 sentences each. The first paragraph should begin with something like “Thank you for your time and consideration.” The middle paragraph should refer to your suitability and desire for the job, and add a selling point if possible. The last paragraph depends on the tone of the interview. You may address a perceived shortcoming, reiterate your interest in the job, offer some additional information, for example, references, or add a personal note. Keep in mind the point of the note: to add to your personal presentation and make your name memorable. Most people really mess up the follow-ups. Doing it right automatically makes you stand out.

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