In today's job market, sending a post-interview thank-you note can be the difference between landing the job and being completely overlooked. Yet, over half of job seekers never send one, according to Wendy Enelow, founder and president of Career Thought Leaders.
"It's not elective, it's mandatory," Enelow says. "It instantly gives you a competitive distinction to everyone else they're interviewing."
But a generic, "Thank you for your time" won't cut it. You'll want to really stand out from the competition.
Here are five elements of an outstanding thank-you note:
1. Reiterate skills, experience, and accomplishments.
"Even though you might have shared them during the interview, everybody doesn't hear everything that you say," Enelow explains. Give specific examples that show the hiring manager why you'd be a good fit for the position, and distinguish your skill set from the competition.
However, don't mention anything unrelated to the job at hand. If you're interviewing for a sales job, talk about your previous experience in sales, not accounting. "All they care about is that job," Enelow says.
2. Supplement your interview answers.
Use the thank-you note as an opportunity to expand on points you made during the interview or to add additional information you want the company to know.
But again, remember to keep it concise and job-specific.
"If you feel like you didn't quite answer a question or couldn't think of something at the time, you could mention that," says Caroline Ceniza-Levine, a career coach with SixFigureStart. For example, you could say, "You asked about my experience in the Middle East region, and I forgot to mention that I did this research project on ... ."
This is also a great opportunity to send any links to projects, news stories, or websites you may have mentioned during the interview.
3. Share ideas.
Share an idea of how you would solve a problem, overcome an obstacle, or meet a challenge faced by the company. This proves that you understand the employer's goals and can immediately become part of the team.
"It makes somebody think, 'Wow, this person is really interested in the company, really listened to what I said to them, and already has good ideas,'" Enelow says. She suggests a straightforward approach, such as, "I was thinking about the issues you're having around your new product launch, and I might offer the following suggestions … ."
4. Dismiss any potential objections.
Whether the interviewer verbally brought up an objection, or you could just sense her unease, address potential issues head-on to dispel any skepticism. Enelow says: " Maybe you know how to use three different financial software systems, but aren't necessarily familiar with theirs. Then you would write something like, 'For the past 15 years, I've used a number of different financial management software packages, and I'm sure it won't take me any time to get up to speed with yours.'"
This is your chance to overcome any doubt in the interviewer's mind that you're the perfect candidate by showing her exactly why she shouldn't worry.
5. Be proactive.
Close your email or handwritten note by showing that you want the job and will actively continue to pursue it. "Always include an action," Enelow advises. For example, if the company is still looking at other candidates, say, "I understand that you're interviewing other applicants, but I will be certain to follow up in two weeks because I'm particularly interested in this opportunity."
Bottom line: No matter job you're applying for or what content you choose to include in your thank-you note, keep it succinct and polite.
Here's an example of a well-written thank-you note from Enelow:
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