Thank You Letters After Job Interviews
Author/Creation: Katie Moody, January 2010.
Summary: Provides a formula for writing thank you letters after job interviews. Also discusses common errors and supplies several example letters.
Learning Objectives: To state the goals of follow-up correspondence. To avoid common errors that writers make when writing or sending thank you letters. To use an organizational formula to draft thank you letters.
The interview process does not end at the end of a job interview. A potential employer will continue to consider your qualifications after the interview has concluded, and part of that consideration is made up of how you act after the interview. Your behavior after the interview might allow you a unique chance to shine; many of the common courtesies such as following up after an interview have fallen by the wayside, so you will have a chance to stand out by sending a thank you letter to your interviewer.
Follow‐up correspondence serves several main goals.
- First, and most obviously, you want to thank the reader for meeting with you.
- Second, your follow‐up allows you to reaffirm your genuine interest in the position. A potential hire should never underestimate the importance of showing interest for a position.
- Third, your follow‐up suggests that you have a commitment to quality communication. An applicant who displays good communication skills has a better chance at getting a job; good communication skills before and after an interview indicate to an interviewer that an applicant will display these same skills on the job. For instance, Xerox will not hire someone who does not follow‐up within ten days because the company assumes that an applicant would also not follow‐up with customers (Locker & Kaczmarek, 2007).
- Finally, following up reminds the interviewer of who you were. You can include information in a follow‐up letter that is specific to a conversation that you had in the interview (1) to remind the reader of who you are and (2) to tell the reader what parts of your conversation you found to be useful or engaging, which will tell the interviewer more about your individual personality. Following up also shows the interviewer that you were listening to what he or she said about company goals, values, etc.
Common Errors: Some Do’s and Don’ts
Before we continue, it would be beneficial to stop and note some common errors that some writers face. These errors render the correspondence ineffective and may in fact hurt your chances at obtaining the job. According to Minninger (1992), there are three common errors that writers of follow‐up letters need to be aware of.
# 1: Don’t wait too long to respond.
A writer needs to be able to respond quickly and efficiently in order to adequately facilitate the communication process.
In order to avoid a lot of confusion regarding the appropriate wait time for sending a letter, a writer should begin writing a response letter immediately and send it to the interviewer as soon as possible. In fact, you are encouraged to make notes when the interview ends so that you can better draft your response. A quick response will show your reader that you were excited about your interview and interested in finding out the results.
Do send a letter within two business days.
# 2: Don’t use form letters.
Form letters can be beneficial tools of communication in some instances, but a follow‐up letter is not an appropriate place to use a generalized form letter. Your follow‐up letter needs to be tailored to your specific communication situation—to the person or people who interviewed you about your interview.
Form letters cause several unique problems. First, the form letter sounds completely impersonal and greatly affects the tone that comes across to the reader. Second, the form letter often does not include any specific information about the interview. The specific information serves to both help the reader recall your meeting and show that you were interested in the interview.
Do write a letter tailored to your interviewer.
# 3: Don’t send unrevised, poorly written letters.
This error is a common one for any piece of correspondence. Revision is a key element for good writing, and submitting sloppy, unrevised drafts of a letter for any type of correspondence will automatically reflect poorly on the writer’s abilities.
A lack of revision also signifies to the reader that you are not committed to productive, positive communication (remember that one of the goals of a follow‐up letter is showing the reader that you are committed to quality communication). Just like the cover letter that you wrote to get an interview, the follow‐up letter is a sample of the quality of work that you can produce.
Do revise and proofread carefully.
Minninger’s list of possible errors ends here, but I believe that there is one other pitfall that writers should avoid in follow‐up letters such as these.
#4: Don’t ask or answer questions.
At a first look, it might seem like a good idea to include a question in your follow‐up letter because it puts pressure on the reader so that he or she must continue to correspond with you. As such, you create a letter that furthers your communication. However, asking questions in a follow‐up letter can place an unnecessary burden on the reader. Questions also go against the purpose of the letter; you are writing to say thank you, not to get information. Questions can also be awkward for a reader if he or she does not intend to hire you; by placing a burden on that reader, you force him or her to respond to you even if you have not been chosen for a position.
There are circumstances where it is pertinent to include additional information, however.
- When the interviewer has requested that you answer a question or provide additional information.
- When you have had additional skill building after the interview that you were not able to discuss at the original meeting, such as extra training or additional project experience.
While the follow‐up letter should not be used as a platform for continuing the meeting or requiring your reader to respond, you can offer to provide additional information or answer other questions at the reader’s request.
Do provide additional information if it is requested by the reader or if it is something that you did not have the ability to discuss prior to the interview (such as additional training that took place after the interview).
Keeping these goals and common errors in mind, let’s take a look at the organization of a follow‐up letter and how that organization can help you achieve these goals.
Organization and Content
While the organization of any letter will change based on needs, there are three basic parts to any follow‐up letter.
- Statement of purpose.
- Reminder of the events of the meeting.
- Reaffirmation of your interest and qualifications.
- Goodwill ending.
Let’s discuss each of these parts and then consider an example.
The first part of the letter is the statement of purpose. A writer will want to let the reader know what the purpose of the letter is immediately so that a reader does not have to search through the document to find a purpose. Let the reader know immediately that you are writing to say thank you. This strategy will allow you to both inform the reader of your purpose and begin building goodwill at the beginning of the letter.
You will then want to present some information that directly relates to something that you discussed or did in your meeting. The types of information that you can include here are endless and depend entirely on what occurred during the actual meeting. For example, if the person who conducted the meeting gave you a tour of a facility, you might want to express gratitude and interest at the gesture, and perhaps even bring up a point in the tour that was of particular interest to you. You can also express excitement for a plan of action that might have been discussed in the meeting.
If applicable, you can also answer a question that was posed to you during an interview. Be careful doing this, however. If the reader specifically requested that you send some type of information to him or her, then that information should be sent. However, the follow‐up letter should NEVER be used to answer questions that were not answered in the interview. In other words, answering questions and providing additional information about yourself in the letter should only be done at the behest of the reader; never include this type of information if it was not requested.
Like any business correspondence, a follow‐up letter must have a goodwill ending. While the opening and body of a letter set the tone for the duration of the letter, the goodwill ending helps to set the tone for the future. You will want to make sure that your ending promotes goodwill by looking towards the future and building rapport; that includes providing contact information in case the reader wants to follow‐up.
Let’s take a look at a sample follow‐up letter and see how considering the goals of the letter, remembering some common errors, and using a basic organizational strategy can help a writer draft a successful follow‐up letter.
Dear Mr. Smithers:
I want to thank you for meeting with me Monday on June 1, 2009, for the English position. It was a pleasure to discuss Jackson High School’s academic achievements with you and your team.
I enjoyed getting to show you and Mrs. Wilson my strategy notebook and to learn about the different reading methods that your English department uses for graduating seniors. I think that my experience, combined with my strategies for success, would work well with the reading methods of your English department.
Thank you again for the interview opportunity, and I hope to hear from you soon regarding the 9th grade English teacher position.
This letter provides an excellent sample for how a follow‐up letter should look. The letter meets all of the goals that were discussed at the beginning of the handout and makes good use of the organizational format presented earlier. Let’s look at how the writer uses each point of the organizational strategy to her advantage.
First, the writer includes a clear statement of purpose. Her statement of purpose works particularly well here because it includes an exact date to which the reader can refer.
Second, the writer reminds the reader of specific events that occurred during the meeting. Notice that the event that the writer mentions is not something that sounds generic; the event that the writer mentions is specific to the reader and what happened during the meeting.
Third, the writer has reaffirmed her interest and reminded the reader of some of her specific qualifications. This writer has done an excellent job with these tasks because she has directly connected what was discussed in the meeting with her qualifications.
Finally, the writer includes a goodwill ending that both looks towards the future and builds rapport. The writer also includes contact information at the end of her letter, thus further encouraging future communication with the reader.
You’ll find two additional sample letters below. We encourage you to analyze them considering what you have learned in this handout: How do you feel about the way the writers provide information? Do you think the letters are effective? Why or why not? What would you do differently? Notice that example two demonstrates some of the exceptions that were discussed under Error #4.
Dear Mrs. Sanderson and Mr. Langley:
Thank you again for meeting with me yesterday afternoon about the Web Communications Coordinator position. It was a pleasure to meet both of you.
I enjoyed hearing your philosophies for successful design coordination and discussing how I could apply those philosophies to my field. As you requested, I have enclosed some additional samples of my work for you to review.
Thank you again for your time, and I look forward to putting my energy, enthusiasm, and creativity to work for you and your team.
Dawn L. Summers
Dear Mr. Fitz:
Thank you for meeting with me on January 3 for the management position. It was a pleasure to meet you and discuss Interworks’ achievements with you and your team.
After speaking with you and Mrs. Reynolds, I believe that I would be a match for the position. As we discussed, my unique experience with the Oracle program qualifies me for the position and will allow me to begin working without any training.
In addition to my other qualifications, I will be completing an advanced seminar on Oracle within the next week. I feel that I will be able to use this experience to better serve the needs of you and your team.
I am very interested in working for you and contributing to the success of Interworks. Please let me know if I can provide any additional information. I look forward to hearing from you.
Locker, K.O., & Kaczmarek, S.K. (2007). Business communication: Building critical skills (3rd edition). McGraw‐Hill Irwin: Boston.
Minninger, J. (1992). The perfect letter. Doubleday: New York.