How can an interview follow-up email make that much difference?
By reminding them why you’re the right person for the job. Can they have forgotten this so soon, the day after the interview? Sure, especially if they interviewed several people that day. And maybe they weren’t that clear on your unique selling proposition in the first place.
By focusing the employer’s mind on what they liked best about you, what really “clicked” in the interview.
By serving as a real-time demonstration of your communication skills and emotional intelligence.
By showing that you really want the job. Employers do not assume you want the job, even if you said so at the end of the interview. For all they know, you were just being polite.
Can you reuse the same note for many interviews?
Although you can draft a template as a starting point, the most effective follow-up email won’t be generic. It will refer back to the interview in a way that has some authentic detail to it and reminds the interviewer what they liked about you as a candidate.
How do you know what they liked? Well, maybe you used the clever technique of actually asking them as the interview was starting, “May I ask you a question? What was it about my background that made you want to interview me?” That could gain you some very useful information.
Or maybe toward the end of the interview you asked a question like, “Now that we’ve talked a while, I wonder if you could tell me what you think are my strengths as a candidate for this role?” (A good follow-up to this question might be, “And if there were something I could do to make myself an even better candidate, what would that be?”)
At any rate, you probably received some impressions of what the interviewer liked about you. It’s a great idea to jot down those impressions right after each interview.
How to take notes for an effective interview thank-you note:
Whether or not you take notes during the interview, do so as soon as possible afterwards. If you’re not sure what to write down, ask yourself the following questions:
How excited are you about this opening? Why?
What did you learn that makes you even more interested than you were before the interview?
What else did you learn about the job and the company?
Are you an even better fit than you thought before the interview? In what ways?
What did they seem to like best about you? What made their eyes light up? What topics led to a lot of conversation?
Is there anything important that got left out—for example, maybe a great SOAR story you didn’t get a chance to tell?
Do you remember any good chitchat you could refer back to? This could help you build relationship with a statement like “I hope you had a great time at that concert you were heading out to.”
If this gives you too much material, great! Use the best and leave the rest. Keep your message down to three or four short paragraphs, or 100-200 words.
If many days go by after the interview and you still haven’t heard back, use some of the other material in additional follow-ups. (Just make sure those additional notes give a sense of continuing the conversation and updating them on your continued interest—*not* pestering them for a decision.)
Would you like to see an example?
Please see my earlier post, “Interview Follow-up: Another Way to Stand Out.”
Should you send an email, a card or a letter?
These days an email usually seems most appropriate, especially in very technological industries. However, some job seekers have found that a hardcopy letter or a handwritten card gives them an advantage by standing out from the hundreds of emails the interviewer may receive every day. Either way, don’t obsess over the mode of delivery. It’s less important how your message arrives, than that it does arrive, promptly—and is well written.
Now, do you have to write an outstanding thank-you letter after every interview? My answer is similar to that sign on your dentist’s wall that says “Do you have to floss all your teeth? No, only the ones you want to keep.” If you really want the job, demonstrate the extra motivation and savvy that will make you stand out and get the offer. (This post was originally published in 2013 and has been updated.)