Hope Springs Internal™

January 13, 2010

Thank-You Letters Help Applicants Get Jobs

By Linda Tancs

In today’s economy, more applicants are observing the finer points of interviewing etiquette—namely, sending a thank-you letter to their interviewer.  Don’t let a failure to do so hamper your chances of being selected for your target position.  Just follow a few simple rules of letter writing and you can increase your chances of influencing the hiring decision. 

 First, consider mailing a typed or handwritten note.  Although the digital age has made e-mails a much more common (and perhaps in many cases, preferred) method of communication, there is no substitute for the personal touch.  If your handwriting is generally illegible, however, then type your message.  Second, keep it simple.  A single page of no more than three or four paragraphs should suffice in most instances.  Third, proofread your letter for misspellings, grammatical errors and correct names and addresses.  You must devote attention to detail to a task as simple as this; otherwise, why would an employer entrust you with more significant communications?  Furthermore, be sure to direct a customized letter to each person with whom you interviewed. 

 Next, focus on the body of your letter.  A good letter should: (i) thank the interviewer; (ii) confirm your interest in the position; (iii) emphasize your strengths and counter any concerns that may have arisen during the interview; and (iv) suggest further action.  When you express thanks for your interview, be sure to include the date of the interview and the nature or title of the position for which you applied.  In a second paragraph, confirm your interest in the position.  Specifically, indicate why you are a good fit—what is it about the job in relation to your  experience that makes it particularly inviting?  Your remarks should illustrate how well you’ve researched the company and your prospective role in it.  Follow up on this in a third paragraph, emphasizing one or two of your strongest qualifications.  The trick here is to state your best qualifications from the perspective of the interviewer—not your own.  In other words, demonstrate your listening skills by relating your best traits or experiences to what the interviewer considered to be most significant for the position.  Conversely, if the interviewer expressed concerns about any of your qualifications or ability to perform the job, be sure to address and assuage any objections in your letter.  For instance, career changers should consider transferable skills that are relevant to the tasks involved in the job that might not have been highlighted effectively during the interview.  Again, understanding the job, the firm’s culture and how your experience relates to the organization are all paramount to addressing potential roadblocks.  In the final paragraph, close with a call to action.  Is a second interview in the offing?  Will you call to check on the status of a decision within a few days or weeks?  Outline your desired next step, and leave appropriate contact information if applicable.

A thank-you letter represents more than just good manners.  It also demonstrates your initiative and ability to follow up, two strong traits for any position.  Use it wisely to demonstrate how valuable you’ll be to your target employer. 

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