Don’t Forget to Say “Thank You”

Don’t Forget to Say “Thank You”

Sending a thank you to your interviewers is not only polite, but also serves several strategic purposes. It reinforces the positive impression you made during your interview, emphasizes your enthusiasm for the position you seek, or provides an opportunity to correct any misunderstandings that may have occurred. A thank you message is another way to put your name in front of the hiring authority and set yourself apart from other candidates under consideration.

While it’s best to send a thank you within a day or two after your interview, a message arriving a week or so later can remind the recipient of your meeting, especially if you haven’t received feedback. On the other hand, if the interviewing process is moving along so quickly that you’re scheduled for further meetings before you have a chance to send a thank you, it becomes moot. In the event you learn that the firm declines to pursue your candidacy, it’s good form to send a thank you anyway, perhaps requesting that the employer keep you in mind for future openings. The legal community is small, and establishing a classy reputation only reaps benefits.

While email thank you’s are the norm, you can stand out from the pack by mailing a note or card. If sending a handwritten note, use businesslike cards with just your name, initials, or “thank you” embossed or printed on the front—no cute pictures! Or, use monarch-sized stationery (7.25 x 10.5 inches). A typed thank you should be on personal or plain stationery, not on your current firm’s letterhead. If your handwriting is not perfectly legible, by all means type it.

Whether you choose email or snail mail, make sure that grammar and spelling are correct, especially the names of the interviewer and firm or company. Collect a business card from each interviewer, check LinkedIn or the firm’s website, or call the receptionist to confirm the spelling of the interviewer’s name and exact title, if necessary. Beware: A sloppy, error-filled thank you could lose you the job rather than enhance your chances of getting an offer.

Remember that the thank you note is business correspondence and treat it seriously. The basic components of the message, whether by email or on paper, include the following:

  • An opening paragraph in which you express you appreciation for the time spent, tour of the facilities, lunch, etc.
  • Middle paragraph(s) reinforcing your understanding of the requirements of the position being sought and the needs of the company or firm, emphasizing your qualifications, relating any relevant experiences or successes in your past, clarifying or correcting any misunderstandings, making any additional points not made in the interview, answering any questions left open, and providing further information regarding the points discussed, etc. Mention specifics from the interview and make the message personal. This lets the reader know you were attentive during your meeting and may remind them of who you are, especially if the firm interviewed a number of candidates over time for the position. If, since the meeting, you thought of other insightful questions, did further research, or heard breaking industry news, address those issues here.
  • The closing paragraph reiterates your interest and enthusiasm for the position and your desire to be part of the team, as well as what you can contribute to the prospective employer. The tone should be eager but not desperate, friendly but not groveling. Then state that you look forward to discussing the opportunity further, will follow up at a previously agreed upon time, or hope to hear from them soon. Include contact information on your letterhead or in your signature block to make it easy for the employer to reach you. If you already have an offer in hand, communicate this fact and your timeline for making a decision.
  • If you’re not interested in pursuing the job, a thank you still is in good form. Just use the first paragraph described above and state that you decided to pursue another opportunity. Don’t criticize the interviewer or company in any way. It’s a small world, and you don’t want anything haunting you.
  • You may attach or enclose a clipping or cartoon (in good taste) relevant to the interview discussion. However, don’t send a gift. It’s overreaching and can make the recipient feel uncomfortable. Don’t do anything gimmicky, such as sending a shoe “to get your foot in the door”, or balloons, or a singing telegram. (Don’t laugh; it’s been done!)

If you interviewed with more than one person, you may send individual thank you’s to each, personalized by mentioning something discussed with each particular interviewer. The messages may be forwarded or compared, and a form letter won’t make a good impression. Alternatively, send a message only to the person with the most authority or with whom you spent the most time or most closely bonded, including a statement that you “appreciated the time spent by” or “enjoyed meeting” (mentioning all the names). Ask the recipient to extend your thanks to all the others. If the recruitment administrator spent significant time coordinating your visit, showing you around, and making introductions, you may want to thank him or her, as well.

In an extremely active hiring market, many recruiters, candidates, and employers differ in their opinion whether a thank you note really is necessary. While a prompt thank you shows good etiquette, follow-through, and attention to detail, in addition to enthusiasm and desire for the position, for those firms scrambling to fill all their openings, a thank you may be superfluous. Furthermore, a recruitment administrator drowning under a sea of resumes or a busy attorney may not welcome more correspondence to open, circulate, and file. In any event, “friendly” mail is almost always appreciated. At minimum, it demonstrates your good manners which would reflect well upon the firm should they hire you. In a slower market, or where a firm is having a difficult time selecting one candidate in a close race, a well-written thank you might make a positive difference.

Valerie Fontaine
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