The thank you note

There is a great deal of advice out there about thank you notes, much of it focusing on whether you should write it as an e-mail or whether you should send a handwritten note. My job is to attend to the interactional significance, and the communicative affordances of such a note, and one that is often overlooked is that it can “fill in the blanks” so to speak – pick up loose pieces, things that you forgot to say, elaborate or clarify some moments of confusion, and above all else, showcase enthusiasm for the job. Just be sure to proofread!

Have you heard something on the news since that made you think about something that came up in the job interview? Or something that you said “I would need to think a little bit more about that” that you have now since thought through a bit more and would like to elaborate on. In any case, this is another opportunity to rearticulate the degree of fit between your interests, skills, competencies, and the needs of the organization, so don’t miss any chance to do that!   Also, a thank-you note creates a discourse slot for expressing enthusiasm about the job. Definately don’t forget to do that!

And I will just share some experiences about handwritten notes that have been shared with me over the course of talking to people for this book. Handwritten notes take days to arrive and in some cases, that is a good thing – it makes you pop up to top of mind just when someone might be in the position of needing to make a hiring decision.   And while in some industries, a written note shows that you are considerate and have a personal touch, in others, it is a troubling indicator that you are hopelessly out of touch with the way that business communication is done. In the tech industry for example, a hand-written thank you note might be reason to have you be thrown out of consideration for a position because it shows that you are unaware of the realities of the context of their workplace. In my case, when I applied to a job for the federal government, it was right after the ricin scare and mail was taking days and weeks to get processed. I heard through a contact on the inside at the organization that my not having sent a thank-you note had become a topic of conversation, and I jotted off a quick e-mail, saying that I had heard about the delays in mail systems on the news and it made me wonder whether my note had been held up. In most cases, it is probably a good idea to send an e-mail and then a follow-up written note.

Another question is whether to send an individual thank you note if you were interviewed by a group. In my experience, it is nice to send individual messages to each individual contact if you can. Especially if there were particular questions that the two of you discussed or a particular connection that you made (and hopefully this was the case for everyone at the table). Ideally, there was some moment in the interaction that particularly resonated or that was a point of follow-up, or that had you thinking afterwards.

Like field notes that you take when doing an ethnographic research project, it is a good idea to get these notes down immediately after returning home, it might even be a good idea to start thinking ahead during the interview itself.  Thinking about crafting the thank you note that you will send afterwards might trigger you to be thinking about ideas that you might plant during this interaction that would be good ones to come back to!