Did you answer an interview question poorly? Didn’t get your message across the way you wanted to? Here’s your second chance – and yes, it can make a difference! It isn’t too late. Go ahead and let them know how much you want the job through learning how to write a great personal thank you letter!
Is it really necessary to send a personal thank you letter?
True, many well-qualified applicants are offered jobs despite neglecting to send a personal thank you letter. But why take that chance? If you don’t write a job interview thank you letter, you’re missing a great opportunity to continue describing and demonstrating your greatest skills and strengths!
A well-written and correctly-timed job interview thank you letter demonstrates professionalism and strong communication skills as well as punctuality and reliability.
It also demonstrates that all-important ability to “follow through” that employers are desperately searching for from each and every applicant.
If you feel that it was a sub-par interview performance on your part, then job interview thank you letters also demonstrate resilience – that you’re willing and able to take your disappointing interview and turn it around or transform it into a job offer. You’re sending the message, “I’m not giving up that easily!”
Say What You Would Have Said…
Personal thank you letters also offer you the opportunity to take time to prepare a particular message to the employer – a luxury that you don’t often enjoy while answering a variety of challenging questions during your interview. Interview performances are “on the spot” and never perfect – we often feel like there’s something we could have done or said differently. Using personal thank you letters, you can continue to describe and demonstrate your particular qualifications and abilities.
Take the Time to Write it Well
A poorly-written job interview thank you letter, on the other hand, can only hurt your chances of getting a job offer and can actually diminish your status in the eyes of the interviewers. This includes letters that lack enough persuasive content or are not carefully edited and proofread.
Exactly what should I say in my personal thank you letter? Job interview thank you letters are designed to be brief and to the point, making only a few points using a few sentences, and to follow 3 simple steps.
Step 1) Thank You!
The first “thank you” or a statement of appreciation for the interview. Everyone loves to be thanked for their time and attention. Showing genuine appreciation is one of the easiest and most effective ways to build rapport with new people, and a thank you letter is an easy way to do this!
Here are a few examples to get you started:
“I very much appreciated the opportunity to meet with you and your team earlier today.” “Thank you for the opportunity to get to know you and your growing organization.” “Thank you for our interview. I very much enjoyed our meeting and hope to continue to get to know you and your company.”
Step 2) Emphasize a Positive, Downplay a Negative or Fill in a Gap
The second thing you want to do is take a sentence or two (three sentences maximum) to add value to your interview performance. Make an important point about your interview – either emphasize a positive, downplay a negative, or fill in a gap. This is in keeping with your interview “game plan” – your specific plan to tell the interviewers about your most impressive strengths and highest-level skills while minimizing your weaknesses.
Emphasizing a Positive
What messages or clues did you get from the interviewers suggesting what was vitally important or exciting to them, where their voice, posture or facial expressions “perked up?” Which of your qualifications or interview answers seemed to jive the most with them or noticeably capture their attention and interest?
You could mention something about this in your personal thank you letter, using statements starting with “I.” For instance, you could start like this:
“I would like to emphasize that I offer over 4 years experience working with older psychiatric patients – a strong fit with your organization’s current needs”, or… “I know that my graduate degree in organic chemistry prepares me particularly well to fulfil the challenges of this new research role”, or… “I am confident that my ten years of clerical experience in a similar professional environment would make me a strong fit for your new office team”…
Downplaying a Negative
Did you say something in your interview that you now feel worried or regretful about? Maybe you don’t think you did a good job at answering a “weakness” question and are concerned that the employer might decide not to hire you because you over-stated a weakness in the “heat of the moment.”
Write a few words to soften your answer, like this:
“During the interview, I mentioned that I often want to do things perfectly. I would like to clarify that I have learned over the past few years to soften this approach. I am now able to do my work quite accurately without causing myself undue stress.” “As I mentioned in our discussion yesterday, I am continuing to study Spanish, and am confident that I can speak fluently with your Spanish-speaking customers about a wide variety of concerns.”
Filling in a Gap
Perhaps there was a part of your interview that just didn’t work out the way you’d hoped. You didn’t answer a question well, or perhaps didn’t answer it at all due to a mental block or because you didn’t prepare properly for that particular question. The solution: Answer it now, in your personal thank you letter! Perhaps in filling in this gap through your job interview thank you letter, you can help to put the employer’s mind to rest about that particular issue, and greatly improve your chances of getting hired.
Here are a couple of examples:
“One of the questions that you raised during the interview addressed my ability to deal with conflict in the workplace. I would like you to know that I have faced misunderstandings with co-workers in the past that I have always been able to fully resolve through approaching them directly, politely and respectfully.” “You asked during the interview about what it means to be professional. To me, professionalism includes many interpersonal skills, including but not limited to punctuality, reliability and always treating both customers and co-workers with respect and kindness.”
Step 3: Say “Thank You Again” and Offer to Answer Further Questions
End your job interview thank you letters by saying thank you again and offering to answer further questions. This demonstrates openness and a desire to stay in touch. It is common to write the actual words, “Thank you again” at this point in the personal thank you letter.
For instance, you could write,
“Thank you again. Please feel free to contact me if you have further questions about my skills, experience or education. I can be reached during the days at (465) 238-5412.”
If possible, make your job interview thank you letter shorter without deleting any of your best writing. Examine every word for relevance and if you don’t need it, delete it! As always, proofread your letter and ask a trusted friend or family member to examine it for typos and and make sure that it conveys a very positive message about you.
Can I send a personal thank you letter using a personal/greeting card?
This is generally not a good idea. Sending a job interview thank you letter using a greeting card may send the wrong message. The employer may interpret it as overly-personal and not in keeping with professional protocol and boundaries.
It’s the content that matters. So it’s better to send a job interview thank you letter using email – a simple email with a simple font, simple signature and professional-sounding email address. Send it in the body of the email and not as an attachment – keep it simple.
Who to Send the Personal Thank You Letter To, and When
Send the letter to everyone who interviewed you, or at least your main contact. To make the best impression, send job interview thank you letters later on the same day as your interview or early the next morning.
In summary then, here are the steps to writing a great personal thank you letter:
1) Say thank you in your own words
2) Emphasize a positive, downplay a negative or fill in a gap
3) Say “thank you again” and offer to answer further questions
Other key points to remember:
Always take the time to write a personal thank you letter, and ensure that it is well written, edited and proofread. Send it within 24 hours, via email. Most important of all, make sure that it conveys this very positive, powerful message: “I’m ready!”
Eric Weir holds a Masters Degree in Social Work from the University of Toronto, Canada and offers over 6 years of employment and career counseling experience to clients of all ages and walks of life. Eric publishes other articles at his website, http://www.job-search-coach.com.