Want to leave a great impression post interview? Send a stellar thank you email. [TWEET]

After an interview you’ll probably have a multitude of feelings from relief to bewilderment to excitement. An interview will do that to you. It’s exciting, stressful, and overwhelming.

These positive stresses are amplified when we’re left with uncertainty of how to proceed post interview and left wondering, what do I do now? Do I send an interview follow-up?

Often the best solution is action itself: do something about it to influence your fate. Hiring managers, recruiters, and HR managers receive at times dozens of applications and inquiries for positions so taking steps to ensure your application is at the top of the list is an excellent way to keep them engaged.

Sending interview thank you notes is also courteous, gracious, and just plain old nice - this is a good way to appear to a potential employer.

If you’re ready to say thanks but don’t know where to start, here’s everything you need for your interview follow-up:

When should you send a thank you?

Most companies have a one to three (or four!) step hiring process that normally kicks off with a phone or video call interview. You can say thanks after each and every round. Why? Well, why not. Saying thanks demonstrates that you’re thankful and thankful people are happy people; who wouldn’t want to hire a happy person?

Interview follow-up timing is also important. Too quickly and it may come off insincere and too late may come off as simply, old news. I recommend sending one two to four hours after the interview to a maximum of the next business day. The benefit of waiting till the next day is that by then, the interviewer may have had some time to think about and discuss your application with potential hiring managers. Think of your interview thank you note as a reminder that you exist. When would you like that reminder to pop up? Allow some time for things to happen so that you may continue to be on the forefront of the selection committee’s mind.  

How should I send my thanks?

Choosing the right communication method is integral. If you telephone to say thanks vs. email, it could come off wrong, but not a disaster. It’s more about the content, which we’ll talk about later. Just as each organization uniquely has it’s own culture and norms, the same goes for the selection committee. Consider how the interviewer chose to communicate with you off the bat. If it was all email, all the time, they may not want to receive a phone call. Certain generations are less likely to use the phone than others - you may want to give that some thought, too.

The generally accepted medium is email because it allows you to be articulate. With email you can also provide links to relevant information like online resumes, profiles, or portfolios. Email for interview follow-up is great because you can format it and send a clean, well-thought-out message. Another benefit of email is that it doesn’t require an immediate response, such as a phone call would, and the interviewer can get back to you with more information once they have it.

What do I say?

There are so many things you can say in an interview thank you that we will start with what you should not say:

Don’t correct information discussed over the phone in a “what I meant to say” fashion. Or if you do, be cautious about it. If it sounds like a story, it is a story.  Don’t explain why you aren’t good at interviewing. This’ll sound like an excuse. Don’t make too many assumptions about next steps or request to bypass process (especially to HR. HR people don’t like that).

Here’s what you do say:

Keep it brief. Express thanks for the time taken and the opportunity at hand and your desire to make into the next round of interviews. Thank you messages do not need to be complicated! Most hiring managers and recruiters are happy to receive thank you notes but don’t expect them. If brevity is your style then own it. Keep it short, simple, and to the point.

If you want to take it to the next level, you can add a personal connection. You can add in why you enjoyed the conversation so much and what specifically it was that you discussed or learned that resonated with you. For example, if you learned about their company culture, and their emphasis on employee learning struck a chord with you, then you can say that in your thank you email. It’s about showing the interviewer that there was a connection made. Companies want to feel wanted. They want you to want what they’re selling, so show them you do. Show them you were listening and it excited and energized you. Show them there is a strong connection.

You can elevate both methods above by providing more information. This is a tactic I love as an HR manager. Candidates often volunteer links to personal blogs, portfolios, profiles, and useful information that helps me get to know them as individuals or better yet, demonstrates their applicable competencies to the job I’m hiring for.

If you’re in sales or just an assertive go-getter, you might want to ask when they plan to make a decision or what the next steps are. These are reasonable questions and fair play!

The goal of your messaging - from the resume to the interview to the thank you note - should be to get the receiver to want to know more about you. So, from writing a cover letter to writing a post-interview thank you message, you want to motivate them to read on.

How long should the interview follow-up be?

Not long. It should be anywhere from three lines to two paragraphs - max! You want to engage them on, not make them read an essay.

Who do I thank?

Always thank everyone who was a part of the process. First off, if they have an HR person who has been involved, they should remain your key point of contact. HR will normally be the person consistent through the full cycle of hiring meaning you may interview with different groups and individuals, but HR will be the one coordinating it. Keep them at the forefront of your messages. They can also distribute to any individual involved who you may not have contact information for.

You can send a message to HR as your main point of contact and have them forward it off to other interviewers or the hiring manager.

Keeping true to yourself and the goal of your message will guide you to writing your own stellar thank you note. My best advice: make it genuine.

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