People often ask for etiquette guidance on how to handle the thank you note process. What should notes convey? When should they be sent? What format should be used? I dispense this advice frequently. Read on with my hopes that it will help you stand out in the crowded interview landscape.

First, a note about great leadership skills. In my talk, Be Bold, Not Bossy, I share that the secret to great leadership is balancing humility, tact, and assertiveness. I believe this is the magic trio we see in great leaders. A thank you note is an excellent opportunity to show your balance of these important traits. Additionally, the two major traits that companies are considering in candidates are competence and confidence. A well-crafted, personal thank you note is the perfect vehicle to showcase these important traits.


What should a thank you note convey?

Thank the recipient(s) for their time and interest in meeting you. Ideally, convey a new detail about your background or a creative idea about the role – something that continues the conversation and further secures your competence in handling the position. Keep them excited about your fit to the role, but more than that, make them even more excited about the idea of you as the ideal candidate by sharing a new nugget of information. Be sure to ask for the job. That conveys confidence. Coming across as a tad too passive can cause others to misread your level of interest. Asking for the job could look something like this:

Thanks again for inviting (Note: “inviting” is a nice word choice to convey humility) me in to interview for this role. As I vet my current opportunities, I have to say, this position is my top choice. I’d be honored (Note: another nice humility word) to be selected as your next [insert title]. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Ask about timeframe. Inquire as to when they expect to make a decision and when would be an appropriate time to follow up again. Or perhaps write something like, “I’ll touch base later next week to see where you’re at in the decision process.”


How long should I wait to send a thank you?

I suggest 3 to 24 hours after you interview.


Should I mail a handwritten card or send an email?

In this day and age, email is expected. The key to your thank you note is more about having it read in an interesting way and less about the format in which it arrives. Email or mail are both preferred to hand delivery for corporate environments.


Should I send one to everyone I meet after interviewing on-site?

Yes. If you can, gather all email addresses, and first and last names (ideally business cards) from everyone you meet with on-site for a formal interview, that’s best. Then, in each note, convey a unique idea or reflect on a conversation that you had with each individual person. Customizing thank you notes goes a long way to helping you stand out among your competition.


What should I do if I don’t get someone’s email address?

If you have no way of contacting the person directly, send the thank you to the person who organized the interview, likely a human resources professional or a recruiter. Ask the interview organizer to forward the email on your behalf, explaining that you do not have the contact information for the person(s) who interviewed you.


Is the process different for internal transfers and promotions vs. external opportunities?

A thank you note is a thank you note, A formal tone may not be necessary for internal roles but you’re still being vetted for the position against others and you still want to make the etiquette effort and ensure that you’re seen as just as professional and assertive as an external candidate.


What are things to avoid in a note?

Too many exclamation marks can be a turn off. Assertive – not aggressive or desperate – is the tone you’re going for. Strong yet a little cool. Trying too hard will rarely work to your advantage.


Does it mean something if my thank you note is not acknowledged?

Unfortunately it’s not uncommon to get “ghosted” in the world of interviews. Even after a third interview, sometimes companies go quiet. If you don’t receive a follow-up note after sending a thank you note, don’t panic. But if you follow up another time or two and hear nothing, it may be time to walk away and put your energy into pursuing other opportunities. I suggest 2 to 3 post-interview follow-ups (over the series of a week or two) before dropping the opportunity and moving on.


Do I need to write one if I don’t want the job?

Sometimes we leave an interview and know it’s not the job for us. In this case, it is a common courtesy to thank the interviewer for their time and let them know that you’re going to move in a new direction. It’s a small world and you never know when someone will resurface. Be kind. Treat others as you would like to be treated.


Thank you notes are an important etiquette step in the job search process. Use them to your advantage as a way to stand out. And, as always, if you need guidance along the way, reach out. I’d be happy to help you craft your words.

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