Few people send post interview thank you letters even though it is common career advice. I always encourage doing this because it is a fantastic way to keep your name in the minds of potential employers. There are many sample letters available online and they typically suggest to reinforce your core strengths and the value you plan to bring to the hiring position. In other words, they want you to sell yourself one last time and this is great advice.
I want to take it step further – use this letter for damage control too. When I ask people how they feel about an interview, I sometimes hear “Great. It went perfect!” but more often, I hear, “Good, but…”
It is important to address the “but.” This letter is an opportunity to clarify any perceived misunderstandings and address any comments you feel were badly received by the interviewer. That said, here is my recommendation for drafting a post interview thank you letter. In addition to reinforcing your strengths and value proposition answer the following questions.
- What did you say that the interviewer positively responded to? Reinforce this too!
- What do you think you could have explained better? Take the opportunity to clarify any important points that you feel were unclear.
- What do you think the interviewer was unhappy about and why? Sometimes you know something went wrong in an interview but you cannot do anything about it because you are on to a new topic or maybe because you are unable to pinpoint how it went wrong while answering other questions. After the interview is complete, and any emotional stress you feel has passed, review the conversation and try to infer what the interviewer was looking for in an answer. If you can figure this out, re-answer the question in your thank you.
- Do you recall anything personal the interviewer expressed about him/herself? Make a final personal comment that shows you are a person who is interested in people. The reality of all business is that it consists of people working together to accomplish a goal – show that you are a people person!
Try to be as complete and brief as possible when writing your letter. Remember that the purpose is to correct interview mistakes. You want to do so without writing a novel.
I have seen thank you letters move somebody from a middle-of-the-pack candidate to a front-runner. It is foolish not to use this politeness to your advantage. Happy job hunting and good luck!