Going for the win with interview thanks letter

Published: Monday, January 8, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 7, 2007 at 11:33 p.m.
Q: How much do post-interview thank-you notes or letters really impact hiring decisions? I'm inclined to think they're overrated - canned, flat and "Dear Aunt Martha" boring. If they're truly useful, should they be handwritten, typed or sent by e-mail?
A: When you're in a classy field of candidates, each trying to race down the stretch for the win, skipping a smart thank-you/think-me letter could leave you sucking dust.
    The old-school thank-you letter is a nice document of manners; the contemporary thank-you letter is a necessary medium of marketing.
    In constructing a thank-you letter, use the same powerful concepts as you would for a targeted resume that directly matches your qualifications with the job's requirements. The resume and the thank-you letter are bookends for your interview. The resume is the "before" communicator of your high-value qualifications, and the thank-you letter is the "after" chance to follow up for the win.
    In your resume and during your interview, you sold yourself on being a great fit for the job - tit for tat in qualifications, competencies, skills and interest, punctuated with true and lively tales of accomplishments. Don't stop the winning streak that got you this far, but based on what happened during the interview, build on it! Here is sales ammo to morph your candidacy into a job offer.
  • Express appreciation for the interviewer's time and for giving you a fresh-from-the-front-lines update on the organization's immediate direction.
  • Remind the interviewer of what you specifically can do for a company, not what a company can do for you. Draw verbal links between a company's immediate needs and your qualifications.
  • Elaborate on your experience in handling concerns that were discussed during the interview.
  • After researching an issue that the company is wrestling with, include a brief but pertinent statement of your findings, perhaps even closing a relevant news clip about the matter.
  • Add information to a question you didn't fully answer during the interview.
  • Overcome objections the interviewer expressed about offering you the job.
  • Reaffirm your interest in the position and respect for the company.
    In this digital age, most people send e-mail thank-you letters. This is usually fine for commodity jobs, especially when the hiring decision is going to be made within a few days or so. But for an important job, a typed dead-tree-industry letter is more impressive and memorable; send it by postal mail, or if time is short, via an overnight delivery service. The letter can run two, even three pages if it is flush with white space and easy to read.
    True, some people swear by handwritten notes, but even when the penmanship is good, a note doesn't readily lend itself as a marketing tool when you go for the win. Even when you're addressing it to your old college roommate.
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