The Power of the Post-Interview Thank You Letter

by Knight, Jeanne Wednesday, June 13, 2007
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Just as resumes have undergone a dramatic change over the past 20 years, so have post-interview thank you letters. Twenty years ago, a resume was typically a one page document that briefly listed a candidate's overall work experience and academic credentials. As the employment market changed and became more competitive, so did resumes. Today, they are powerful marketing tools designed to "sell" a candidate's skills, accomplishments and expertise in order to give a job seeker a competitive edge over other candidates.

The same is true for cover letters. In the past they were considered brief introductory letters ("Here's my resume."), that over time transitioned to cover letters ("Here's my resume, these are my career goals, and here are a few phrases describing my work experience.") that have today become powerful marketing documents ("Here's my resume, here are some of my most notable achievements, and most importantly, here is the VALUE I can bring to your organization.") The most effective cover letters now integrate the same concepts as powerful resumes - they "sell" a candidate's qualifications and experience and give that individual a competitive edge.

Now we come to the post-interview thank you letter. In the past, if such a letter was actually sent, it simply stated, "Thank you for your time; I'm very interested in this position." However, in today's market candidates need to take this same concept of "selling" their skills and accomplishments and integrate it into their thank you letters. A well written and convincing thank you letter can be a powerful document that can continue to sell a candidate once the interview is over.

How can you create thank you letters that present compelling reasons to further your candidacy? First, to be truly impactful thank you letters must be customized to each person you interviewed with and must highlight what is most significant to that person and that company. What you include in your thank you letters will depend on your specific interview situation and what you discussed with each interviewer. Use the following scenarios to determine what you should showcase and emphasize when creating your thank you letters:

REINFORCE POINTS FROM THE INTERVIEW:

It's difficult for a hiring manager to remember every detail of every interview they conduct with candidates, so emphasizing the important points of your background, as they relate to the company and the position for which you are applying, will go a long way in distinguishing you from your competition. Even if they were discussed in the interview, take this opportunity to reiterate and further expand upon the skills, qualifications and experiences you bring to the company that are directly related to the company's operations, current needs and future goals.

ADDRESS SPECIFIC CHALLENGES/PROBLEMS:

If the hiring manager shared some of the challenges or problems facing their organization, relate how your experience is tied directly to their needs. Suppose he/she indicated that morale is slipping within the department and that it's impacting turnover. Your thank you letter can describe how you led several key initiatives to increase morale within your department. Or, perhaps he/she discussed a work flow challenge the department has been faced with. Share your past experiences with designing and implementing workflow changes that have led to greater efficiencies and increased productivity.

COMMUNICATE NEW INFORMATION:

Suppose there was something really important about your background or qualifications that you weren't able to mention during the interview. Perhaps there wasn't enough time, or the interviewer's agenda didn't lend itself to discussing that topic, or you just plain forgot. The thank-you letter is precisely the tool to bring to the interviewer's attention those achievements, experiences, project highlights, and qualifications that you believe the interviewer will find significant.

RESPOND TO OBJECTIONS FROM THE INTERVIEWER:

If the hiring manager communicated an objection to hiring you, respond to it in the thank you letter. For example, let's say the hiring manager was concerned that you've never worked in Atlanta, and therefore, don't have any professional contacts in that area. Use the thank-you letter to demonstrate how you previously entered new markets and immediately developed strong networks. That's one of the reasons you've been so successful in your previous positions.

Using thank-you letters as competitive marketing tools means they may sometimes be longer than one page. That's ok! There are no "thank you letter" rules that dictate they must be one page long. What should dictate their length is the amount of valuable information you want to include. If the company has already extended you the opportunity for an interview, they're already interested in you. And, in most cases, they will carefully read any and all material you subsequently forward to them - including a powerful, well-worded, sales-directed, and compelling post-interview thank you letter!