You know it's a good idea to write a thank-you note after an interview, but a lot of people fail to take this basic step. While unlikely to make an employer totally reverse an opinion about you, when done well, thank-you notes can help you stand out from a crowd of applicants. Consider that a lot of employers interview numerous candidates, many of whom gave similar answers to a series of basic questions. If you want hiring managers to remember you favorably, write a knockout thank-you note; it may make a difference.
Be mindful, though: some follow-up notes leave employers cold and less likely to pursue candidates. For example, if your letter is too generic, too short, or if it sounds like a template or scripted message, you probably won't win any points. Other red flags for the employer: Were you in too much of a hurry when you wrote your message? Are there mistakes or typos? Does your follow up cause the reader to doubt your interest in the job? If you can't sound invested in the position and take the time necessary to write an interesting note, you may be wasting your time.
Read your note and ask yourself: "Could someone who didn't even participate in the interview have written this?" If the answer is yes, it's back to the drawing board, or you'll risk leaving the interviewer unimpressed.
There's more to following up than getting the interviewer's name spelled correctly and shooting off a "thanks for meeting me" note. If your messages don't go beyond the following trite and inappropriate phrases and sentiments, you'll want to up your game to help your cause.
"Thank you for the opportunity to interview for the position."
It's lovely to say thank you, but your letter needs to be a little more in-depth to make an impression. If you really want to stand out, consider briefly referencing an off-handed comment the interviewer made, especially if you think it will help the person remember you favorably. For example, "Thank you for the opportunity to interview for the position. Since you mentioned you are swamped with the XYZ project, it was so thoughtful of you to spend an hour with me. I hope you'll agree, based on my qualifications and background in ABC, I could quickly and easily jump in to help your team achieve its next big goal."
Continue by offering one or two specifics that relate to your conversation.
"I believe my qualifications are perfect for this job."
Great! You think you're qualified, but what proof can you offer? Don't write a note saying you're qualified unless you can back it up with some specifics. Ideally, the specifics should come directly from the interview. For example, perhaps the interviewer asked about how you perform on a team, and you gave a great answer. Reiterate your pride in being a great team player and mention another example of your prowess in that area.
"I'm sorry it's taken me so long to get back to you."
This is probably one of the worst things you can say in a thank-you note, as you effectively point out that you can't manage your time well enough to get a basic project finished. This will not win you points with a hiring manager.
"Please enjoy this gift as a token of my appreciation."
Do not expect a grand gesture, such as sending flowers or cookies, will help an employer decide to hire you. While the gifts will be memorable, you could stand out as the desperate, inappropriate candidate. If anything, you'll likely make the employer uncomfortable, which isn't going to lead to a positive response.
"I'm calling to follow up."
It's OK to call to follow up via phone after a certain time frame. (Hopefully, a time period you determined before you left the interview.) However, a phone call is not an appropriate or effective way to thank the interviewer. If anything, it could cause you to receive negative attention, as it may annoy him or her.
If you want the job, it's worth the time to create an in-depth, effective note to inspire the reader to want to learn more about you. A thank you note is your chance to stand out; make sure the employer's impression of you after reading your message is positive and you'll have a much better chance to move on in the process.
Miriam Salpeter is a job search and social media consultant, career coach, author, speaker, resume writer, and owner of Keppie Careers. She is author of Social Networking for Career Success and 100 Conversations for Career Success. Miriam teaches job seekers and entrepreneurs how to incorporate social media tools along with traditional strategies to reach their goals.