The Lost Art of the Thank You Note

thank you cardA few months ago I attended my best friend’s son’s high school graduation party. After all the food and festivities the three of us had some quite time. While I debated as to the tipping point of too much food, she and her son went through every card. He read each one, told her who gave it to him and had a nice comment about each and every person.

Shortly after, he went to reservist training and in his packed belongings was the list, thank you cards and stamps. He was personally going to write a thank you note to each and every person. Not only thanking them if they attended, for any gift but to also put a personalize note to them. His mom did not make him to this entirely; he knew it was expected of him. He understood and appreciated that they spent part of their valuable personal time on him.

Sending a thank you note after an interview is the same concept, plus one. You are thanking the interviewer for taking part of their valuable time to meet with you. Trust me, they have a lot on their plate, this was a sacrifice for them. The plus one is you are also letting them know you are still interested.

Business writing can be a bit overwhelming, especially when job searching. Too often we put extreme pressure on ourselves to say just the right thing. So let’s break it down into the four basic parts and ease our way through it. We will also hit on some please do not do’s, timing and delivery.

Four Parts of a Thank You Note

1. The Thank You

Start off by thanking them for their time in meeting with you on the specific date to discuss the position.

2. Reinforce the Positive

Let them know that you enjoyed hearing about one or two certain aspects of the job that align with your skills, experience or value and tie into a winning moment in the interview.

This is how you tie back to a positive connection that you made during the interview.

Think back through the interview where you think you really scored or you two seemed to click. Reiterate that moment. They may have a goal of abc and in the interview they seemed to perk up about your experience in being successful in achieving those goals.

In the thank you note you can simply say something to the effect of, “I am confident that the experience, lessons and successes I have in xyz, I can bring immediate value in helping company name in achieving abc.”

3. You are Still Interested

It amazes me to hear hiring managers, HR professionals and recruiters tell me that more often than not, interviewees do not let them know if they are still interested in the job after interviewing. All too often, they let these candidates drop. You are interviewing the company just as it is interviewing you. As nervous as you are that they like you, they have the same feelings and nervousness.

We all want to be liked, they are no different. They want the right candidate to like them. They also like to be told that you still like them.

A simple statement such as, “after speaking to you I am even more interested in the opportunity/position with company name”

4. Set up the Follow up

Conclude the note with either confirming the next steps or setting the stage for following up. If, at the end of the interview, you were told that the next step would be an email at the end of the week then your conclusion could be, “I look forward to receiving the email by the end of the week and moving forward in this process.”

If there was no next step defined, then a gentle prod is okay. “I look forward to speaking to you soon about the next steps in moving forward with this position.”

Delivery and Timing

Write the note after you come down off the interview high, but the same day so the information is fresh. I recommend sending a thank you note no later than the next day.

It is an electronic world; it is acceptable to send it via email. Just remember this about email verses formal letter writing – email is expected to be shorter. The reason I called it a thank you note instead of a thank you letter is for brevity. Make it short, sweet and to the point.

Mailing a formal thank you note is acceptable too, who does not like to get good mail?

Please Do Not Do’s

Please do not remind them of a negative. The thank you note is not a place to make up for mistakes during the interview. Focus only on the positive. They might have forgotten about a misstep during the interview, why bring it up again?

Please do not use the opportunity to ask about salary, vacation or benefits. This is simply a thank you for their time and letting them know you are still interested. This is not an informal information gathering opportunity.

Please do not demand of them. Saying things like, “I expect to hear” or setting time frames on them is not appropriate.

Please do not try to play passive aggressive. This is not the place to let them know that you are being considered for another position so they better step up.

Please do not copy and paste the same thank you for each interview and each interviewer. The premise can be the same, however, make tweaks for each individual and situation.

Please do not lie. If you are not interested and do not want to continue with the process, let them know – in a nice way. This is a three step process:

1. Thank them for their time and let them know you appreciate learning about the company and position.
2. Let them know after much consideration that you do not feel that you are the best candidate for this position/the opportunity is not in the best interest of your family – any manner in which you can politely decline in a positive way.
3. Leave the door open: close with a statement that you wish them, their department, their company much success and hope that if another opportunity that aligns with your skills/goals or unfortunate circumstances were removed, you would love to have another discussion.

Will the thank you note cinch the job for you, probably not. However, it does provide additional touches to the interviewer, reinforces positive aspects about you and solidifies your professional brand.


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I help people identify and set a path to achieve their career goals by using the V Formula:

Your Value + Your Voice = Visibility

Visibility is the leverage to move in, move up or move on in your career; expand your book of business or territory, grow your company and strengthen your team.


Lisa K. McDonald, Owner and Principal of Career Polish, Inc. is a favorite speaker and seminar facilitator at companies, professional organizations and colleges speaking to leadership, sales, teams, transitioning/downsized employees and networking groups about career mobility, personal branding, networking, creating executive presence and achieving career movement success. To find out more, visit Career Polish, Inc.

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