If you believe journalist Judith Martin, otherwise known as Miss Manners, thank-you notes are now rarer than traffic-free work commutes. The defender of manners has long lambasted readers for their neglect of this lost art, starting with thankfulness for a gift and now on to gratitude for a job interview.
Though gift recipients may no longer feel obligated to show thanks, the job landscape hasn’t changed much over the past few decades. Good manners will still get you far, and writing a post-interview thank-you letter may be the very best thing you can do for your career.
Not only is such a note polite; it also acts as a second cover letter that encourages the employer to reach out. And if a would-be employer is on the fence about hiring you, a thank-you note could be sufficient to push him or her off the ledge and into your corner.
When to Write a Thank-You Letter
When in doubt about whether a thank-you note is appropriate, defer to good manners and send one anyway. It’s not just formal job interviews that demand such a note, but also informal lunches. Any time anyone does something for you that could potentially help you land a job, you need to send a note.
So how long should you wait before putting pen to paper? The sooner, the better. The longer you wait, the more likely it is that you’ll be forgotten, or even that someone else will be hired. It’s best, instead, to write the note as soon as you get home. That way the interview and its many details will be fresh in your mind.
Proper Formatting and Delivery
In an era where texting and email dominates, it may have been years since you’ve written an actual letter. Keep these tips in mind:
- Physical letters sent via snail mail look better than emails and faxes.
- Send the letter to the correct address, not just to the hospital or clinic’s main address. IF you’re not sure, call and ask.
- Use nice paper, but don’t overdo it; if you use stationery that’s too expensive, you can look fussy and stuffy.
- There is no need to follow up on a thank-you note; indeed, doing so can look needy and rude.
The Role of Specificity
If your thank-you note could be sent in bulk to everyone who interviewed you, you’re doing it wrong. Your note should be specific. Be sure to do the following:
- Address a note to each individual who interviewed you.
- Name a specific highlight of the interview.
- Thank the interviewer for something specific. For instance, if you got lost on the way to the interview, be sure to offer gratitude for accurate and succinct instructions.
- If you and the interviewer hit it off over a mutual hobby, be sure to mention this, as it humanizes you and can remind the interviewer of how much he or she liked you. For example, you might say, “It was so nice to share our mutual love of border collies, and I hope we’ll eventually be able to get them together for a play date.”
The thank-you note is not the time to engage in stroking your own ego or over-the-top self-promotion. Don’t link to your website, highlight more achievements, or offer more data on yourself. Instead, use this as a chance to subtly promote yourself by talking about fit. Note something that happened during the interview that made you particularly keen to work at this facility. “Watching the way you interacted with patients reminded me of how important it is to me to work in a facility where patient care is front and center, and I can think of no better place to do that than at your hospital” is a great way to remind the interviewer of what’s important to you and why you’re a great fit.
Stellar Grammar and Sentence Structure
It might seem obvious enough that stellar grammar and sentence structure are part of the package. Here’s the problem, though: most people think they’re great writers, when the reality is that few people actually are. Keep these tips in mind for an attractive and intelligent letter:
- Never, ever use passive voice. Not only does this look uneducated; it also potentially robs you of responsibility. For example, if you say, “The interview was enjoyed,” you take away your chance to say, “I greatly enjoyed our interview.”
- Be mindful of titles. Women are always addressed as Ms., never Mrs. or Miss. And anyone who is a doctor should be addressed as such. The only exception occurs when someone expresses an alternative preference. For example, a newlywed woman might want to be addressed as Mrs. If she expresses this preference, honor it.
- Keep your sentences short and tight. Long, meandering sentences are a hallmark of bad writing.
- Don’t use a lot of filler; you’ll bore your reader and compromise the quality of your writing.
- Read your letter several times, and run it through a spell check. Then read it again. Remember, spell checkers won’t catch properly spelled but incorrectly used words. For instance, a spell checker will never notice when you write, “I look forward to meeting your supervisor, two.”
If you’re still struggling, try running your letter by a friend or relative who’s a good writer. Remember, this letter is akin to a second cover letter, so it’s worth expending a little effort to get it perfect.