Spring Cleaning: It's time to trash that thank you note template

Photo by BrianAJackson/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by BrianAJackson/iStock / Getty Images

After an interview, it’s easy to walk out of the room (or hang up the phone), take a deep breath and say “phew, glad that’s over.” The last thing you feel like doing is crafting a thoughtful, insightful note to send to the interviewer(s). Most professionals already know that it’s best to send a thank you note after an interview (within 24hrs!). Surprisingly, most professionals also tend to miss this golden opportunity to solidify the positive impression they just left on the hiring manager because they feel rushed, they don’t know what to say, or they consider it a trivial part of the vetting process.

 

Even if you’re not yet sure whether this is the job for you, it’s worth the extra effort to personalize your thank you notes. If you wait for absolute certainty that this is your dream job before you start putting in the legwork, you will have long missed your train by the time this realization comes.

 

Here are 5 common mistakes to avoid when crafting that crucial follow up note:

 

Mistake #1: Using a stock email you found online or made yourself:  You might be thinking, “OK, but I have an AWESOME template that works like a charm after every interview I go on. I just plug in the person’s name, the name of the company, and “violà!”--it’s been sent on my phone before I even hit the subway platform.” While we really hate to make it rain on your parade here—there is no such thing as an awesome template! Templates are meant to be unspecific and vague in order to be generally applicable; your thank you notes should reflect the opposite. This is the perfect opportunity for you to demonstrate how you actively listened and reflected on your conversation and make a stand-out impression to the interviewer (who, by the way, is sick of reading the same follow up over and over and over…..). At CFW, our rule of thumb is: it’s a terrible thank you note if you could have written it before the interview ever took place.

 

Whoopsie #2: Being vague: So, you’ve ditched the stock email and you’re now looking back on the specifics of your interview. You start writing, “it was great to hear about the company, and exciting to learn about the role.” Well, what was it that you found great? And why was it so exciting? Even though you’ve moved away from the template, ask yourself if this note is applicable to any other interview you’ve been on. If it is, it’s not specific enough. Try this on for size: “It was great to hear about the value your company places on transparency, and I was even more excited when I learned this role would involve cross-departmental projects.”

 

Yikes #3: Neglecting to clear up negative feedback or hesitations brought up in the interview: Before you call us crazy, hear us out—the follow-up note is the perfect opportunity to, A) show you internalized their feedback and B) explain why you’re a great fit despite those concerns. Be sure to do this without getting defensive, as it will demonstrate to your future manager how you respond to criticism.

**Even if the interview was your best ever and there was no hesitation on their end, remember to reiterate why you deserve to be their newest employee. They might be the ones offering you a job, but you are offering them a great new addition to their team!

 

No-no #4: Giving up at the last sentence: But why?! You’ve made it so far. That stock email you tossed is long-gone… don’t end your well-crafted follow up with the overused, “Thanks again and please let me know if you need anything else from me.” This is like being three steps away from the finish line and then deciding you’re just going to lay down right there for a nap. Your goal here is to make it to the next round, so this is your time to close the deal. Be proactive—ask if there are any further hesitations you can clear up, offer to meet for coffee or meet more members of the team, etc. For all you know, their hesitation might be around your ability to take initiative and do exactly this!

 

Uh-Ohhhh #5 (AKA, the Deal-Breaker): Forgetting to triple check for grammar and spelling mistakes: This is the easiest mistake to fix but by far the most common one made. You might not realize this, but follow-up notes are often part of the actual vetting process. This is the first glimpse the hiring manager has into your written communication skills, so please, we beg you, do NOT blow your chances because you misspelled a few words, used incorrect punctuation or had a typo in your last paragraph. Proofread, and then have someone else double check it for you. While we recommend sending this note within the first 24 hours of your interview, quality is better than speed, so make sure you use the fully allotted time to get it right.

 

The next time you interview, remember these tips so you don’t fumble at the 1-yard line. Even if you don’t get the job, you will stand out as a thoughtful, articulate candidate and leave a great professional impression!