In the spirit of the holiday that has just passed, I’d like to spend a few more moments thinking about giving thanks, especially in the context of the job or internship search. We know that we need to send a routine note of thanks following an interview, and an email is absolutely the best way to ensure that your message is received promptly. But what about thanking other people who have helped you along in your path to – and through – Penn? As a longer winter break approaches, think about taking a few moments to reach out to a high school teacher, a coach, or even a family friend to express appreciation. A handwritten note will likely surprise them, and will be sure to leave a fond impression.
Ilan tackles some of the annoying obstacles that can impede the process of writing a handwritten note (the pressure to find the perfect card!), but also encourages you to be specific when composing a note of thanks, and to consider thanking someone with whom you haven’t spoken to or seen in some time.
Naturally, this could lead to grabbing coffee or lunch while you have some down time over break, and during that meeting you could continue a professional conversation about your path and your goals. We all know the value of a good informational interview, even with a close acquaintance.
Or, it could just make that person’s day during the hectic holiday season! And isn’t that a great reason to write, too?
You often hear about the importance of follow through in the context of sports, whether it’s a golf swing or pitching a ball, but the principle is just as important in the context of a job or internship search. After working hard to impress recruiters and hiring mangers throughout the interview process, you want to keep that momentum going and demonstrate to your potential employer that their initial positive impressions were correct. Sending a thank you note is a key step in the process.
Is it really that important?
Over the years, I have served on several search committees and this is a detail that is expected from candidates. It doesn’t have to be too long, but it should be timely and free from errors. You will stand out for the wrong reasons if you don’t send one.
You may ask why is it such a big deal. First, employers do not have much to go on during the interview. Anyone can say they are good communicators or pay attention to details, but showing you are those things makes all the difference. A thank you note demonstrates your interest in the position and is a sign of respect, reflecting that you value the time of the interviewers. Writing a thank you note is also another opportunity to remind the recruiter or hiring committee why you would be a good fit for that role and company.
Timing is everything!
I’m often asked if it’s acceptable to email a thank you. Yes, emailing a thank you note is fine and allows you to send the note within 24 hours of the interview. If you are one of the last people to interview and the hiring committee will make a decision soon, time is of the essence so emailing a thank you note makes sense. For positions I have really wanted, I have also sent a handwritten note as well. Just be sure to change the message slightly so it’s not the exact same thing. Handwritten notes are not as common these days, so it can help you stand out for the right reasons.
Should I include all the interviewers?
Ideally, yes you would send a thank you to each person asking you questions. During the interview, see if you can get business cards of those who interview you or a list of names and titles of the people you meet if they do not have cards available. The person who scheduled the interview should have this. They may or may not be willing to share this info.
At the very least, email a thank you to the main contact who scheduled the interview with you. I once had a 6-hour interview with 14 people and I sent thank yous to each one. It took a few hours, but I believe it was one of the factors that helped me land the job.
What to write
A thank you note can be brief with only 5-6 sentences. Address the person by their last name (Dr. X or Ms. Y) and then write a line thanking them for taking time from their busy schedule to meet with you about the role. Mention how you enjoyed hearing about the department and learning more about the company. Be sure to include a specific detail you discussed in your interview. Finally, briefly talk about why you are interested in the role and how it aligns with your skills (mention the most relevant). For an example, see http://www.vpul.upenn.edu/careerservices/writtenmaterials/followup.php.
Tips and Tricks
Write your thank yous in Microsoft Word or Pages first so you can spell check and won’t be too close to the send email button while in the draft phase. Then, you can either cut and paste into emails or hand write the text after you have it perfected.
When writing notes to multiple interviewers, I start with about three versions of the thank you note and rotate these among the interviewers so they are not all starting with the same sentence. Then, add another level of personalization to each by mentioning something you spoke to that particular person about during the interview. After I’m finished with an interview, I will jot a few notes down about what I discussed and that helps with the thank you writing.
For hand written thank yous, I will buy one of those small boxes of thank you notes you can find at the grocery store, a drug store, or any hallmark or office supply place. I like the small notes because there’s less space to write, so 4-6 sentences will fill up the page. Short and sweet!
Good luck! You are one step closer to landing that dream role.
Alyssa Perkins-Chatterton, Administrative Assistant, College Team
It may seem like a simple gesture, but it is one that will go a very long way in making you stand out for all the right reasons after an interview. Sending a thank-you note to an interviewer is something that many candidates forget to do. If you take the time to send a quick note, it ensures that you will stand out from the rest of the candidate pool. The other benefit to a post-interview thank-you note is that you get the opportunity to restate your interest in the position and show the takeaways you learned from the interview. You should not use the thank-you note to summarize your interview and the points you made, however, often times we leave an interview wishing we had highlighted a certain experience more than we did. In your thank-you note, you can highlight this experience and expand on it based on what it seemed the employer was looking for, keeping in mind that you should only bring this up in your thank-you if it is an important thing to know for the role you are interviewing for. It is important that the emphasis of the note is still on thanking the employer for their time and consideration. Making the effort to send a quick note also emphasizes your written communication skills to the employer. Besides your application materials, this will be one of the first times an employer can see how you would potentially be perceived when communicating with clients or customers in this role.
The thank-you note should not be an in depth recap of your interview but a brief note in which you sum up and highlight why you would be a good fit for the position. Be sure to follow-up in a timely manner, if possible, in the same day as your interview.
Your thank-you note will go much further than you may think, it could even be the deciding factor whether or not you, or the person sitting next to you, gets the job.
Here you can find Career Services tips for writing a post-interview thank-you note!
As the summer slowly moves along, just a little tip from an Administrative Assistant… As someone who spends their day assisting others it’s important to feel like what you do matters. Many of you are in internships, or have gone off to your first full-time positions where there will be those who are in roles like mine. Roles where they may not get as much of the recognition for what they do. My advice is to take the time to acknowledge those people. It may be that their positions are primarily behind the scenes, but their work is essential. Take the time to thank them for what they do.
Career services advisors encounter one scenario with some regularity: a student or postdoc is in the midst of a job search, and is frustrated because they are not getting the offers they hoped to receive. They want us to figure out what is going “wrong” and how to fix it. While there is rarely a quick explanation, or even a sure “fix,” there are some ways to pinpoint behaviors that students and postdocs could change to improve their outcomes. If you find yourself in this situation:
First, acknowledge that getting to the interview stage means you have desirable qualifications. Sometimes job seekers lose sight of this fact when feeling frustrated with their search. Sometimes that frustration can carry over into your interactions with future employers, and this is to be avoided if possible. Remember instead: past interest from employers generally suggests that your application materials are well targeted to the jobs you seek.
Evaluate all you are doing to prepare for your interviews. Are you researching the employers, deciding on what examples of accomplishments you want to share in the interview, clearly articulating your career goals and your potential, doing a mock interview to get some practice under your belt? Can anything be strengthened at the preparation phase, before the interview actually takes place?
Consider if you are respecting the etiquette conventions of the interview process. Are you getting to your interviews early, dressing professionally, and greeting everyone pleasantly? Are you acting in a way that fits with the culture of each employer? Do you ask interested questions, and express enthusiasm for the position and organization? Do you send a thank you note (or email) after each interview?
Do you take time at the end of each interview to consider how the process went? Reflect on what questions you answered well and what was unexpected or not handled smoothly. In particular, questions about salary can be mishandled if the discussion leads the employer to believe you want much more than what they might have budgeted for the position. What information did you get during the interview about the responsibilities of the position, or that might even indicate the interviewer’s experience of you? A few moments of analysis after the interview can help you in any future interview situation, and sometimes even help you shape any follow up during the rest of the selection process.
Do you know if or when your references are being contacted? Do you believe that you are getting strong support from your referees? (Someone who doesn’t speak highly of you can end up hurting your chances of getting an offer, “damning with faint praise.“)
Finally, remember that there are aspects to hiring that go beyond your interview performance. Sometimes there are inside candidates, changes to funding situations or priorities that shift during the hiring process. Occasionally, the “fit” with the culture or future direction of the organization just isn’t there, even when you have the right skills for the job at hand.
Whether or not you have yet to receive an offer, reflecting on some of the points above will undoubtedly improve your future interview experiences. Ultimately, the best you can do as a job seeker is to be prepared, present yourself thoughtfully, and acknowledge that some rejection is part of most job searches, as is a lot of ambiguity. At any time, if you want support in your job search, including talking about interview strategies, please make an appointment with Career Services advisors. We are here to help!