Developing a Follow-up Thank You Letter

Question: I just got back from a job interview. I’m interested in the position, and they seemed pretty enthusiastic about my experience and qualifications. Now what? Should I send a follow up thank you letter? If so, should I send a business letter, email message, or hand-written card? And, what should I say?

Good thinking! In general, you should indeed consider sending thank you letters after job interviews, as doing so can offer some specific benefits:

  • It can help you get the attention of potential employers. Taking the time to send a thank you letter not only shows that you’re interested in the position, but also indicates your attention to detail and your willingness to go the extra mile.
  • It keeps you fresh in the interviewers’ minds after the interview. Sure, they have your resume, letter of application, and perhaps writing samples you left behind for them to review. But, a prompt thank you letter can help ensure your name stays in their minds and that your materials are reviewed–and not lost in a pile of applications.
  • It offers yet another sample of your writing and editing skills. A well-written and polished letter demonstrates your skills and can prompt interviewers to go back to your resume, letter, and samples–and put them on top of their pile of applications.
  • It gives you an opportunity to provide details that weren’t covered in the interview. Perhaps you ran out of time in the interview. Or perhaps you thought of something right after you left the interview. Whatever the reason, you likely still have a few relevant details to mention, and the thank you letter gives you an effective, timely, and appropriate means of communicating them.
  • It gives you an opportunity to remind interviewers of your qualifications and experience. Although you likely discussed these aspects with the interviewers, you can reiterate relevant points or key details in the letter.
  • It gives you an opportunity to invite additional questions. Just as you may have thought of additional details to tell the interviewers, they might have thought of additional questions to ask. By inviting them to ask additional questions, you help keep the communication going.
  • It gives you an opportunity to express your interest in the position. Just because you interviewed for a position and the job seems like a good match doesn’t indicate to interviewers that you want the job. You need to explicitly tell them.

So, sending a follow up thank you letter doesn’t just say “thank you”; it can be a tool for providing additional information, expressing your interest in the job, and keeping the lines of communication open. And, taking the time to send a well-written, polished letter may be just be the key that sets you apart from other applicants.

But, what kind of letter should you send–a business letter, an email message, or hand-written card? How do you approach the letter? And, what should the letter include? Let’s take a look….

Choosing a Letter Format

Your first step in developing a follow-up thank you letter is determining whether you should send a business letter, an email message, or a hand-written card. You’ll find that there’s no “right” answer to this question and that there are advantages and disadvantages to the various options you have. Your goal here is to weigh the pros and cons of each option and choose the option that’s appropriate for the situation:

A Business Letter

Advantages Disadvantages
  • Offers room for details
  • Offers a standard, professional-looking format
  • Can further showcase your writing/editing/communication skills
  • Can indicate your attention to detail and interest in the job
  • Is often perceived as a more traditional medium
  • Is not delivered to the recipient immediately through Postal mail
  • Is considered an un-techie communication medium
  • Is not easy for recipient to forward to other decision makers; may get buried on the recipient’s desk

An Email Message

Advantages Disadvantages
  • Offers room for details
  • Offers fast receipt
  • Is easy for recipient to forward to other decision makers
  • Can showcase your writing/editing/communication skills
  • Can indicate your attention to detail and interest in the job
  • Is a techie communication medium
  • May be perceived as less formal or professional
  • May be perceived as a less-traditional communication medium

A Hand-written Card

Advantages Disadvantages
  • Can give a personal touch
  • Can be perceived as more traditional
  • May be perceived as less professional or polished
  • May not further showcase your writing/editing/communication skills
  • Is not delivered to the recipient immediately through Postal mail
  • Is considered an un-techie communication medium
  • Is not as easy for recipient to forward around; may get buried on the recipient’s desk

Of the three options, a business letter and email message are likely your best choices, as you’ll probably find that the disadvantages of a hand-written card outweigh the advantages. Further, the business letter or email message formats allow you to further showcase your writing, editing, and communication skills, and provide the space needed to include details–which are important in supporting your claims of competency for the position. The following sections, which help plan and write a letter, focus on developing the business letter and email message formats.

Planning the Letter

Before you begin actually writing the letter, take a few minutes to think about the interview(s):

  • What skills, experience, or education did the interviewers ask about? What topics or issues came up more than once? What issues seemed key to them? What needs or problems does the position address?
  • What information, supporting details, or materials did you provide in the interview to address their questions, issues, or needs?
  • What other details, examples, or materials can you provide–given their questions, issues, and needs, and given the details and materials already provided at the interview?

You might jot down some notes about these questions, as you’ll need these details for your letter.

Also, you should have handy the names (with correct spellings) and titles of the people that you interviewed with, as well as their individual addresses. “Ack!” you say, “write a letter to each person that you interviewed with?” Yes, you should consider doing so, as it helps acknowledge each person’s time and knowledge shared during the interview, helps show your attention to each person’s needs, and helps show your attention to detail and interest in the position. In the following sections you’ll see, though, that even writing several letters doesn’t have to be time-consuming or even difficult.

Developing the Letter

A follow-up thank you letter is similar to other business letters: It includes an introduction, body, and conclusion:

Introduction.  The introduction should accomplish a few goals:

  • Thank the recipient. At the very least, the interviewer spent time with you in introducing you to the company, providing information about the job, and answering your questions.
  • Remind the recipient of the position you interviewed for. As smashing as you were in the interview, remember that the recipient may be interviewing people for various positions, so play it safe and remind them which position you’re seeking.
  • Remind them when you interviewed. Again, this is a good idea in case the recipient is interviewing candidates for multiple positions and is a good additional detail to help remind the interviewer who you are.
  • Express your interest. As simple as it sounds, tell the interviewer that you are interested in the position.
  • Remind the interviewer, briefly, of your qualifications.

All that in an introductory paragraph? Yes, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be long. For example, this short paragraph covers all those points:

Thank you for visiting with me over lunch on Tuesday, May 5th about the Procedure Writer position. I appreciate your time in answering my questions, as well as the detailed information you provided. After considering our discussion, I am very interested in the position and feel that my unique qualifications and experience in developing troubleshooting procedures for hardware products would make me a valued and successful member of your team.

Body.  The body can include one or more paragraphs, depending on what information you want to include. In deciding what information to include in the body, go back to the notes you made about the questions, issues, and problems, about the information you already provided, and about what new details you can offer. Your body paragraphs can:

  • Reiterate key details that support your qualifications for the position.
  • Mention additional details that support your qualifications for the position, but that you didn’t discuss in the interview.
  • Provide examples, numbers, or reader comments that support points the interviewer focused on.
  • Provide other details that might separate you from other candidates, given what you now know about the position.

Exactly what you include in the body will vary from letter to letter, even when writing letters to multiple people at the same company. Having already interviewed, you now know more about their wants, needs, problems, issues, and so on; now, use that knowledge to determine what to reiterate, what new information to provide, and what supporting information to include. Choose one, two, or three of the details that seem most significant to mention, and then develop one paragraph for each.

For example, following an interview that stressed experience in writing procedures for heavy equipment, a body paragraph might look like this:

As we discussed, I have four years of experience developing troubleshooting procedures for hardware equipment. My Owner’s Manual for the Power Carburetor–a 67-part component of Speed Racer’s racing engine–received comments such as “I thought I was going to be stranded for hours, but I fixed the problem in minutes using the Owner’s Manual,” from SpeedRacer’s hobbyist readership. Additionally, my poster-sized troubleshooting diagram for SturdyBuilt’s Forklift has resulted in 35% fewer customer service calls and 43% fewer in-person service calls. The accompanying ForkLift Warning stickers I developed have reduced user injury by 22% just in the past six months. This successful experience in writing for the engine hardware industry has prepared me to develop Acme’s procedural and troubleshooting materials.

Or, if you’re enclosing a sample of your work (that you didn’t bring to the interview, but that would be relevant, given what you now know about the position), you might discuss the sample in the body, as in:

I have enclosed a copy of the Power Carburetor Troubleshooting Guide I developed for SpeedRacer’s hobbyist audience. This Guide has received comments such as “I thought I was going to be stranded for hours, but I fixed the problem in minutes using the instructions,” from SpeedRacer’s hobbiest readership. Additionally, the Guide has reduced customer service calls by 35%, as well as reduced product returns by 7% in the past year. This experience in writing for the engine hardware industry has prepared me to develop Acme’s procedural and troubleshooting materials.

Again, the topics you include will depend on the company’s needs and the information exchanged in the interview. Worth noting, however, is the pattern in the two sample body paragraphs:

  • The topic sentence introduces one topic.
  • The following sentences in the paragraph provide specific details and examples that support the topic introduced (and do not stray off topic).
  • The final sentence explicitly connects the details to the position sought.

Conclusion.  Finally, the concluding paragraph also has specific goals:

  • Thank the recipient again.
  • Reiterate your interest in the position.
  • Invite the recipient to contact you with questions.
  • Include contact information (and specifics of your availability to be contacted, if appropriate).

You can include this information concisely, like this:

Again, thank you for the opportunity to talk with you about the Procedure Writer position. I look forward to discussing the position further and to answering additional questions you might have. Please contact me at joesmith@example.com or at (555) 555-5555.

And that’s it! By keeping the interview in mind and by starting with a general outline, you can quickly develop follow up thank you letters. By taking the time to do so, you’ll not only say “thank you,” but also provide additional relevant details, express your interest in the job, keep the lines of communication open, and get noticed!

 

Follow Up Thank You Letter Checklist

  • Does the letter have a clear introduction, body, and conclusion?
  • Does the letter contain information that draws on topics emphasized in the interview?
  • Does the letter supplement, not merely repeat, information provided in your resume, letter of application, or interview? Or, does it reiterate information that seemed particularly key to the interviewer?
  • Does the letter provide specific examples–numbers, excerpts, comments, or details–that support your competency or fit for the position?
  • Does the letter tie such details to the specific position?
  • Does the letter use block or modified-block style correctly?
  • Is the tone personable and professional, and not arrogant or demanding?
  • Does the letter invite further communication?
  • Does the letter include contact information?
  • Is the letter signed?
  • Does the letter (and envelope) address a specific person at a specific company?
  • Does the letter look clean, and is it free from errors (no typos, no grammar/punctuation errors, and no formatting errors)?