Professional Development
Career development / Hiring

Is sending a thank you note after a job interview still a thing?

Post-interview letters of appreciation aren't mandatory, but lots of hiring managers appreciate them. What's the etiquette these days?

You survived the job interview. Should you email them after to say thanks? (Photo by Cottonbro on Pexels)

Editor’s note: After published this story, we got an, ahem, *active* conversation going in our public Slack about the ethics and power imbalances involved in post-interview thank you notes. Based on community members’ comments, we wrote a follow-up to this story. Read it here, and join the convo yourself on Slack.

Yes, sending a thank you note after a job interview is still a thing — at least for now. While the practice is encouraged, sometimes with a vehemence that suggests that not sending one makes an applicant unhireable, it’s also increasingly seen as obsolete in the tech industry.

If you do send a thank you note, you might actually be in the minority of jobseekers. So yes, it will make you stand out, and it shouldn’t take much time at all to do it.

If the office seems very traditional and you really want the job, you shouldn’t even think about not sending a post-interview note. If the office culture is not traditional? Read the company cues in the interview: If the boss says they don’t require cover letters because they’re a waste of time, they’re likely not going to expect a thank you letter — especially one that’s cut-and-paste boilerplate.

If you don’t really want the job — and this isn’t snark — there’s no reason to put additional energy into an insincere thank you letter. Thank you letter signal that you want the job.

Professional etiquette vs. personal etiquette

If you’re new to the concept of job interview thank you notes, know that it’s important to separate professional etiquette from personal etiquette. You’re not thanking your grandmother for the check in your birthday card. You don’t need stationary here, even if you’ve been trained that an email thank you is never appropriate.

When in comes to job interviews, they are entirely acceptable, for a few reasons:

  • It is far easier to get an email for your interviewer than an office mailbox address. (Bonus advice: Remember to ask for a business card so you’ll have the email address if you haven’t communicated by email previously.)
  • Email is much faster — and job interview thank yous should be delivered quickly.
  • Emails, while they may create inbox clutter, won’t create office clutter.
  • Let’s be real: Your thank you note as a job applicant is not going to be kept as a keepsake.

While newlyweds may have a whole year to thank guests for their wedding gifts, you, jobseeker, have about 24 hours. Workplaces move fast. The thank you should be received before they select an applicant for the job. If that sounds a bit transactional, like you’re trying to influence the hiring manager, well, that’s part of the process. And you never know if you’ve gotten a hiring manager that weighs thank you notes as an unspoken, mandatory part of the interview.

Avoid thank you letter mistakes

One way to get your thank you note noticed, and not in a good way, is to do too much. A job interview thank you is succinct, it’s simple, it’s personal, but it shouldn’t be effusive or overly familiar.

You want the job and think you’d be a great fit? Great! Enthusiasm is good. The appearance of desperation, on the other hand, can hurt you.

Examples of doing too much:

  • Sending multiple thank you notes to the same person
  • Sending an overly long letter with a wall of text about why you should get the job
  • Flashy animated or paper cards
  • Any kind of gift — even sending a plate of homemade cookies to the office — creates an ethical dilemma, and is completely unnecessary

If they need bells, whistles and baked goods to remember you, you’re probably not at the top of their list. Let yourself have the confidence to not assume that you need to go big to be remembered.

Beyond the template

You can find thousands of thank you letter templates on the internet, and quite frankly, most of them suck. They’re too formal, too rigid, too cookie cutter. Most recommend that you whip out your credentials after thanking them as a reminder of how qualified you are for the job. Again, though, if they’ve already forgotten your details, you’re not a contender.

The most important thing is that it’s a real personal-professional note. Remember being forced to write a thank you note to a family member for a gift and being told you needed to tell them what you plan to do with that $20 or what you built with the Legos so they know you took the time to thank them for their specific gift? Same concept here. Call back to an interesting part of the interview that made you think, something unique about the company that makes you want to work for them, or something that popped into your head after you left that you wish you’d mentioned.

Keep it to a couple of short paragraphs — a long letter is demanding more of their time. In general, keep it friendly, gracious and not too formal (unless the company vibe is formal — always follow the tone set by the company you want to work for). And don’t spend an hour on it. The thank you letter shouldn’t be extra required work, but a sincere expression of thanks for an opportunity.

Do you send or expect thank you letters after a job interview? Join the conversation on the public Slack.

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