Anatomy of the Perfect Thank You Note
As Venture for America’s Director of Talent, I have seen the best and the worst of post-interview thank yous. Here are three examples demonstrating different styles, all directed towards an interviewer at a company called Castle.
Only one of them will help you land the job. Can you spot it?
Option #1: Concise & Convincing
Option #2: Thoughtful & Thorough
Option #3: Punchy & Persuasive
So, what’s your guess?
If you said, “I like #1! It’s short, to the point … my interviewer is busy and doesn’t have time to read a long note. S/he just wants to see that I wrote a quick ‘thanks,’” you’re … wrong.
Feeling lucky with #2? Think it’s thoughtful, sincere, and compelling? Thoughtful: yes. Effective: nope.
Ah ha! You probably knew all along: note #3 is in the Goldilocks zone of thank you notes. Not too short. Not too long. Just right.
Of course, there’s more to writing a great thank-you note than just achieving optimal length. You want to express gratitude, affirm that you are right for the job, and establish a personal connection – all in less than 250 words. Read on to learn how to construct the elusive perfect thank you note.
[Related : Dear Everyone, Send the Cold Email]
ELEMENT 1: THE SALUTATION
Let’s take it from the top. Opening up the note is the easy part: just “Dear [Interviewer Name]” is always a safe bet. Switch “Hi” for “Dear” if your previous correspondence and conversations have been more casual.
From there, a standard, “Thank you for [speaking/meeting] with me on [day of interview]. I appreciated the opportunity to discuss my potential fit as the [position you interviewed for], and it was great to learn about [company name] more broadly as well,” will do the trick.
ELEMENT 2: THE PROCLAMATION
Next, remind your interviewer that you really, really want this job. Express your excitement, and be sure that you provide an explanation that’s (at least somewhat) unique to you. For example:
“So many aspects of both the company and the position resonate with me; I’m excited by [something about the company], which couldn’t be more aligned with my [passion or interest], and by the opportunity to [one of the cooler job responsibilities or a summary of the purpose of the role].”
As you may have noticed, you’re not actually going to spend much time in this note thanking your interviewer. Plus, by now you’re already more than a third of the way to your 250-word goal. Don’t waste what’s left of your note fawning over your interviewer. It’s time to offer a little reminder of just how awesome you are.
ELEMENT 3: THE CLINCHER
This is the most important part. Here, you have the opportunity to supercharge your interviewer’s impressions of you, course-correcting anything that didn’t go perfectly in your conversation, and reiterating a succinct, compelling argument for why you should be the next addition to their team.
If you got a sense of potential sources of concern about your candidacy, address them head on–but keep it positive. Let’s say you’re a recent grad applying for a job that requires two years of full-time work experience, and your interviewer expressed doubt that you had the professional savvy necessary to succeed. This part might read something like this:
Each year since I entered college has afforded me the chance to learn and grow as a professional. From joining the lacrosse team as its youngest manager ever, and directing a group of ten counselors as Assistant Director at my camp, to defending my thesis in front of a committee of university faculty, I’ve proven that I have the maturity and savvy to be a leader and effective team member – especially when I interact with more experienced individuals or am faced with a new challenge.
Because your explanation addressed a weakness without naming it explicitly (i.e.: didn’t lead with, “If you’re worried I don’t have enough experience…”), you have now countered a possible argument against you without reminding your interviewer of where you fall short. Nice work! And now, all that’s left is to tie it up in a pretty bow.
ELEMENT 4: THE CLOSING
You set out to write a note that expresses gratitude (check!), affirms that you are right for the job (check!), and establishes a personal connection. You’ve handled the first two like a champ, and— hey, it is a thank you note after all, so might as well reiterate your thanks before ending on a friendly, familiar (but still professional) note:
*Again, I’m grateful for your time and consideration. Your approach to the interview and perspective on what makes a successful [role you’re interviewing for] were illuminating, and I hope to continue the conversation soon.
Enjoy [something that your interviewer mentioned is coming up for him/her personally or professionally]. Hope you [something about the aforementioned thing going well]!
Thank you, [Your name]*
Voilà! You’ve now written the perfect thank you note. Of course, a thank you note is nothing if not preceded by a strong interview, one with a well-thought-out narrative and peppered with incisive questions. But, it can be just the extra push you need to go from interviewee to employee.
Lauren Gill is Venture for America’s Director of Talent. This post originally appeared on the VFA blog. Venture for America is a partner company of Jopwell.
Image courtesy of #WOCinTech/Flickr