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Thank-You Letter Hail Marys

Marty Nemko

Editor's Note: This is the fourth in a series on Job Seeker Hail Marys.

You blew the job interview. So even if you were to write a thank-you note gushing with gratitude and reminders of your strengths, you fear you have a better chance of being named pope than you do of landing the job.

It may be time for a Hail Mary thank-you letter, a risky effort that could give you a prayer or pound the final nail into your application coffin.

In fact, the standard, toadying thank-you note rarely boosts a candidate's chances. Indeed, it may even imply he or she is lackluster or desperate. Even solid candidates might want to try one or more of these Hail Mary tactics:

Fawn. Sure, fawning over that boss or company could result in rolled eyes and round-filing your application, but most people do like flattery. Just make the case well, with specificity: For example, "I was impressed that your questions focused on ethics as well as on the bottom line. And your new line of widgets appears to be a real cost-effective alternative to your competitors'. I'd be honored to join your team." Double-down on the sycophancy by handwriting your letter. That shows you're making an extra effort and it feels more personal.

Take a second crack. You flubbed an important interview question. You might write, "I've done some additional thinking about your question about X and, on reflection, (insert new and improved answer)."

Show don't tell. "I'm more excited than ever about the job and feel I could do a great job for you. Here's an infographic showing why we'd work so well together."

Offer custom-tailored goodies. The interviewer's questions likely revealed the employer's priorities. Can you tout some related and yet unmentioned goodie about yourself? For example, "I was pleased that you stressed the importance of social media on this job. I hadn't mentioned that I've been studying the use of social media in our industry and, after our interview, wrote a white paper on it. It's enclosed."

Or--and this is a bit more standard, especially in a revenue-generating position such as sales--write a business plan for what you'd do in the first 90 days, including an estimate of the return on investment in hiring you. To avoid seeming presumptuous, preface your biz plan with, "Of course, I'm not privy to what you've already tried or rejected, but this mini business plan will at least provide a window into the way I think."

Propose. "In light of the interview, I'm wondering if the work group would be wise to (insert a proposal)."

Counter an objection. An interviewer may have expressed a concern about you, or you sensed a concern. You might try this: "You may be concerned that I (insert concern). It might be reassuring to know that (insert counter)."

You might even include a revised résumé that highlights your counter. If you are going to revise your résumé, consider a Hail Mary résumé

Milk the personal-interest connection. If you're lucky, the interview's small-talk revealed that you share a personal interest with the interviewer. For example, maybe you're both the parent of a toddler. If so, your thank-you note might include a nugget--for example, a link to an article on surviving the terrible twos.

Dare to disagree. Most bosses claim to follow the wise advice to hire people secure enough to disagree, but in fact, most bosses prefer yes people. Nevertheless, in a Hail Mary situation, it may be worth the risk of showing your gumption: "You said your work group is planning to go in direction X, but here's why it be wiser to go in Direction Y."

Threaten to pull out. Occasionally, playing hard to get can work. For example, "You've put me through four rounds of interviews, each time soliciting lots of free consulting from me. I feel a bit taken advantage of and am tempted to withdraw my application. Care to provide an explanation?"

In a fair world, employers would be sending applicants a thank-you note. After all, the applicant, without pay, has endured a stressful and time-consuming process, and often felt forced to give the employer his best ideas for free. And despite doing all that, most interviewees don't get the job and may not even get the courtesy of a rejection letter. Alas, until The Revolution, job seekers are pretty much forced to suck up and frothily thank the inquisitors. At least these Hail Mary tactics may boost your chances of joining them.

The San Francisco Bay Guardian called Dr. Nemko "The Bay Area's Best Career Coach" and he was Contributing Editor for Careers at U.S. News. His sixth and seventh books were published in 2012: How to Do Life: What They Didn't Teach You in School and What's the Big Idea? 39 Disruptive Proposals for a Better America. More than 1,000 of his published writings are free on www.martynemko.com. He posts here every Monday.

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