Writing a Thank You Email after an interview is a balancing act.
Whether you’re new to the follow-up email or a seasoned vet, chances are you’ve experienced the paralysis of figuring out what to say. After all, you want to show them you’re interested in the opportunity, remind them you’re well-qualified, and avoid giving off any whiffs of desperation. It's a tall order.
So should it be a physical note in the mail? A ‘Thank You’ card you drop off with reception? Or, in these modern times, is a simple email enough?
Either way, the overall sentiment is that you have to send something… But what, exactly?
Who better to help guide us through the world of Thank You emails than Erica Breuer, Founder of CakeResumes.com. Erica is well-versed in the art of follow-up jiu jitsu, and she has some insightful thoughts on the matter:
“Job seekers often feel awkward writing obligatory thank you's,” Erica writes, “Hiring managers get stuck spending time reading messages that probably don't say anything too interesting. On some level, the standard thank-you email is annoying for everyone involved!”
Phew! So it’s not just us.
That being said, it's another opportunity for you to give thanks to employers for their time, keep you fresh in their mind, and prove that you deserve the gig. These alone are reason enough to master the (somewhat) lost art of the Thank You email.
So here are 3 types of thank you follow-up emails that will help you stand out:
A Thank You Email Means FOLLOW UP WITH PURPOSE
No need to go digging for an arbitrary reason to email someone (“I remember you said you liked Mexican food, and I just ate a burrito! Anyway…”) There’s nothing wrong with following up to thank them for their time and inquire about a timeline for their decision. It can, however, feel like a relatively light email if all you’re saying is “Thanks for your time! Do you know when you might come to a decision? Bye!” and Erica agrees: “Most of us have been taught to say “Thanks for your time” and to restate why we're a great fit for the role. This really isn't enough.”
Instead, pick a subject you discussed during your interview. You can either do a little research and expand upon it, or bring up a new and interesting idea. “Approaching a thank you email this way shows a genuine enthusiasm for the job,” Erica says, “And makes the candidate extremely memorable.”
Often the details you bring back in your thank you email can be subtle, and demonstrate you were interested and paying attention. It can be as simple as mentioning an article you have both read and chatted about during your interview.
This is the great secret to a kickass thank you email: it all begins in the interview. Take note of their questions and inquire about what obstacles they might be facing. Not only will this inform how you present yourself as the solution, but it is a great callback in a follow-up email.
A Thank You Email Means DO A LITTLE FREE WORK (JUST A LITTLE!)
Another option is to follow up with some creative solutions to an issue that was brought up during your discussion. Perhaps the employer mentioned how they’ve struggled with reaching out to a particular market, creating fun social media copy, or designing cool logos.
While I don't recommend doing a whole project (your time is worth being paid for!) a few small cursory ideas can show you’re enthusiastic and dig the work. Obviously, it’s all a question of your comfort and experience level. If you’re looking to make a major career shift, you may feel like you have more to prove in practice, so a little elbow grease can go a long way. If, however, you’re a senior in your industry, a sentence or two spitballing ideas should be enough to dazzle them.
“To really make an impact, job seekers should make a point of asking about the employer's biggest challenges and goals during the interview,” Erica advises, “So they can provide thoughtful solutions and ideas as part of their follow up.”
“I was inspired by our chat the other day, so I brainstormed some potential tag-lines. I am particularly interested in the idea of the product being geared towards millennials who struggle with work/life balance. Here are my interpretations of that concept.”
A Thank You Email Means SELL YOUR SKILLS WITH A POINT
Find a way to reiterate that you’re exactly what they need, and link it back to a subject you talked about during your interview. Think on some of the questions that were asked and you may get a better idea of what their main concerns are for filling this position. You can tap into this as a way to mention how you’re actually kind of amazing.
For example, if an employer asked you about how you are with tight deadlines and in-depth research, you can use that in your follow up to remind them you have the skills they need to squash that fear.
Something as simple as “I recall you mentioning that your team struggles a bit with meeting deadlines. It reminded me of how at my last position we implemented a ‘check-in’ system, where we communicated through the moving parts twice a day. That’s a large part of why I never missed a deadline while working there.”
If you wrap it in a ‘helpful’ tone you specify your skills without coming across as totally self-serving.
There you have it: 3 simple ways to make sure your Thank You email creates a powerful impression and lifts you head and shoulders above the competition.
One final thought: Is there a particular time that a Thank You email should be sent?
I’d hate to do all this work only to realize that I will come across as too eager by sending it too soon, or be perceived as not being interested by waiting too long.
“24 hours is the longest a candidate should wait to send a post-interview message,” Erica writes, “Anything longer can give the impression of a lack of interest in the process as whole. But you can never send the thank-you too soon….Well, except for sending the message from the company's lobby. That'd be overkill!”
You are warned! At least wait until you’re outside the revolving doors!
For more information (and an amazingly in-depth look at Thank You emails and more) check out Erica’s template bundle, which is a surefire way to make sure you’re on top:
Erica Breuer, Personal Brand Strategist and author of Sweet Talk: 50+ “Done-For-‘You” Email Templates That Will Supercharge Your Network & Career