The first thing you should do after ripping off your uncomfortable interview outfit when you get home after a job interview is to send a thank-you letter to your interviewer.
You understandably may think that you — not your interviewer — deserve to be thanked. After all, you took the time and trouble to truck down to your interviewer’s office; you submitted to a cross examination from an interviewer or perhaps even a firing squad … I mean an interview panel. And you may have even graciously inventoried your weaknesses during your interview.
But, unfair though it may be, your fate depends on your interviewer’s opinion of you, which is usually based only on superficial information about you. With so few opportunities to impress interviewers, you should milk each one to the max, including writing thank-you letters.
A thank-you letter will advance your case because:
* Most applicants won’t write thank-you letters. Therefore, your letter will help you stand out from the thankless masses.
* Your thank-you letter will brandish your enthusiasm for the opening, conscientiousness and communication skills — all rare traits.
* Your thank-you letter will compel your interviewer to keep thinking about you after your interview is over.
Your thank-you letter should be zippy and only several paragraphs long. It should thank your interviewer for meeting with you and reaffirm your interest in the opening. It should also concisely review several appealing characteristics of the position and organization covered during the interview and some of your best, most relevant credentials. And it may mention any important information that you failed to mention during the interview.
Your letter may be formatted as a business letter or written in neurotically neat penmanship on a formal card. Repeatedly spell-check and proofread your letter, and, if possible, get a second opinion on it.
Download a sample thank-you letter here.
Thank-you letters sent by overnight delivery will make stronger impressions than thank-you emails that will probably be quickly read and forgotten. After all, don’t you notice letters that are overnighted to you more than the gazillions of emails that you receive daily? In addition, a letter is more likely to be left lying around your interviewer’s office and therefore keep reminding him of you than a quickly deleted email.
And as one interviewer said, “E-mails are just one step above doing nothing.” What’s more, an email may be accidentally deleted or shunted into junk mail and so may go unseen altogether. Therefore, I recommend sending overnight delivery thank-you letters over emails — unless you suspect that a hard-copy letter would get you wrongly pegged as a Luddite.
But before sending a hard-copy letter, inquire if your target agency’s snail mail is delayed by security screens. If so, try to personally drop off your thank-you letter the day after your interview. But if you can’t, send a thank-you email immediately after your interview.
How many letters?
If you had multiple interviewers, send a thank-you letter to each interviewer. Sorry, a single letter addressed to only one interviewer is impersonal and won’t be passed around to each interviewer who will influence the selection decision, and a group email is tacky.
Try to tailor each thank-you letter to each interviewer by mentioning in it a particular exchange you had with the interviewer or something that is apparently important to him or her.
I’m often asked whether applicants should prepare a thank-you letter to give interviewers at the conclusion of their interview. Although you want your letter to arrive before a decision is made about you, don’t use this strategy because it precludes customizing your letter to each interview. You can’t predict what will be discussed during the interview, and you can’t always anticipate all the interviewers or employees whom you will meet during the interview.
Lily Whiteman is a federal communications expert and author of “How to Land a Top-paying Federal Job,” and a trainer of career advancement skills and communication skills. Her website is IGotTheJob.net. Ask your career questions by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by Twitter to @Lilymwhiteman. View her blog at blogs.federaltimes.com/ federal-careers.