Interview Etiquette: Remembering to Say Thank You

How small gestures can lead people to bigger career opportunities

8 May 2014

Photo: iStockphoto

As the product manager of global career resources at IEEE, I realize the importance of providing career guidance to our members. No matter at what stage in their career, whether finishing up a degree in engineering or running a global company, we can all use a little bit of help to get ahead. I’d like to start my first post of many to come on a lost art in the hiring process that can make all the difference when it comes to landing the next job: the thank-you note.

Just recently, a friend of mine was eager to find a new job. His current employer offered low pay and no work-life balance. Because he had been at the same organization for seven years, he was inexperienced at the job hunt, especially with how much the process has changed in the last few years.

After brushing up his résumé (with a bit of assistance from his pal here), he began his search and started to get calls for interviews in just a month’s time. Although his technical experience is in a niche area, and being at the same organization for so long worked against him in some initial interviews, his communication skills won over the hiring employers. This skill set became a critical part of demonstrating his value to their companies.

During each interview, whether with Human Resources personnel, a hiring manager, or a potential colleague, he wrote a follow-up letter thanking them for their time. To hiring managers, he sent a handwritten note. This did not go unnoticed. Several of those individuals thanked him for it, and some were even kind enough to give him tips on what the next steps of the hiring process with their companies would be.

Sending a thank-you note after an interview is something many of today’s job applicants do not do. A simple letter can differentiate you from the competition and enhance your reputation in the eyes of a future boss. Whether by e-mail or snail mail, here are a few things to remember when writing one:

  • Send the note within 24 hours after an interview
  • Aim for about three paragraphs, which include:
    • Thanking them for the opportunity to interview
    • One or two takeaways from the interview, such as something you learned about the company that you did not know beforehand
    • A brief overview of what makes you the best candidate for the position
    • Contact information to make it easy for them to follow up
  • Most importantly, be sure that you proofread the note a few times to check the spelling and proper grammar

Given the importance of communication in any position, whether technical or management, this simple act can demonstrate to a potential employer that you possess a critical skill set.

As for my friend, he starts his new job on Monday. He now will receive a 20 percent pay raise and will be managing his own team. Plus, the hours will be better so that can have more of the work-life balance that he was searching for. What’s more, the employer specifically mentioned in the job offer that my friend’s consistent and clear communication was part of what made him stand out.

blogRory Photo: Rory McCorkle

This is the first post in an ongoing series intended to help IEEE members in the area of career resources. If you have a question or suggestions for career development and employment topics to cover, please let me know by leaving a comment below.

IEEE membership offers a wide range of benefits and opportunities for those who share a common interest in technology. If you are not already a member, consider joining IEEE and becoming part of a worldwide network of more than 400,000 students and professionals.

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