Every career expert claims to have the magic answer to writing a thank you note. As I’ve written before, I don’t claim to have all the answers. My strategy for writing a thank you note follows these principles:
- Keep it short
- Keep it positive
- Focus on what the interviewer cared most about during the interview
- End by saying you want the job
I’d recommend no more than 6-7 sentences for a thank you letter. First, thank the company and mention the position. Second, speak to the interviewer’s concern. Three, ask to move forward and say you want the job.
What about format? Handwritten or email? I think email works if you take the time to craft a good letter. Some people that I greatly respect insist that handwritten is the only way to go. If you want to take the time and make the effort to send a handwritten note, be sure you do so the same day you interview.
Here’s a good trick for learning what matters most to an interviewer. Most interviewers will let you ask questions. Your last question should be: “What is the most important quality you are looking for in a [sales manager]?” If the interviewer says someone who can build a team, briefly affirm why you are a team builder. If she says somebody who hits the number, talk about how you meet/exceed goals. Next, when you’re writing your thank you letter, come back to this point and again affirm that you can deliver the most important quality.
Don’t send generic thank you letters. They only say I don’t care. Speak to the person who interviewed you and show that you care about her biggest concern. That will be the best way to make an impression.
In a tight job market, it’s important to take any advantage you can. Be sure you give yourself an advantage by sending a thank you letter to every company that interviews you. Very few people send thank letters (as few as 15%), so a thank you letter is one more way to impress potential employers.
Consider these points when drafting a cover letter.
1. Keep it brief: A concise, specific letter will be more likely to influence a hiring manager. My recommendation is that the letter be no longer than 5-6 sentences.
2. Keep it positive: Focus on what is most important to the person who interviewed you. How will you know what that person values? Ask. The last question you should ask at every interview is: “What is the most important quality you are looking for in filling this position?” Listen carefully to the answer, affirm during the interview that you can deliver that quality, and then re-affirm that fact in your thank you letter.
Some career experts recommend using thank you letters to address topics in the interview that did not go well. I followed that model for a while. However, my feeling now is that it is more important to emphasize your strong (selling) points, your ability to deliver what the employer needs.
3. Keep it specific: Use the name of the person interviewing you. Talk about the specific skills that the employer is looking for and provide the names of any companies or technologies that support your candidacy. If appropriate, give the number of years you’ve worked in a profession or industry.
4. Send it out quickly: Send a thank you letter out the same day you are interviewed or no later than the next day. You can use email or a traditional letter, but send it soon enough that the person who interviewed you will remember who you are.
Here is a sample thank you letter:
Dear Ms. Jones,
Thank you for interviewing me yesterday. I am very interested in the position of Account Representative with Acme Industries.
You can be confident that I will add new accounts while increasing business with existing accounts. Over the last 15 years, I have built a strong record in your industry and have serviced many of your key accounts, including Wiley Products.
I will follow up with you in a few days to discuss my candidacy and how I can contribute to your company’s success.
Again, I appreciate your time and attention.