"Gee, it looks like a thank-you letter from an
applicant I interviewed last week. Let's see...it says she appreciates the
time I gave her, that she's confident she has the right qualifications for
the position and that she's certain she'll make an immediate contribution.
That's nice. And she hopes to hear from me with a positive response. Hmmm,
just like every other letter I've gotten from candidates this
It's common courtesy for job hunters to send a thank-you letter to
hiring managers after interviewing. So common, in fact, that it no longer
makes much of an impact. Managers expect to receive a note, and they regard
the senders merely as informed candidates who are following protocol. As a
prospective employee, you gain no advantage for your effort -- you simply
avoid being eliminated.
"When I don't receive a thank-you letter, I consider the applicant to be
rude, unprofessional and ignorant of accepted business practices," says
Cathy Layton, owner of a Sarasota, Fla., real-estate consulting firm that
bears her name. "On the other hand, my receiving a letter from an applicant
doesn't improve his or her chances of getting an offer. I expect to be sent
a letter. It's part and parcel of job hunting nowadays."
Sound job hunting demands that you write a thank-you letter to all
interviewers within 48 hours of your meetings. But to really make a great
impression, your next step should be a follow-up telephone call. Without a
thoughtful phone call, your letter will soon be forgotten.
First, Write a Letter
Hiring managers agree that a top-notch thank-you letter must include the
- An opening paragraph in which you express
your appreciation for the interview.
- A second paragraph that reinforces your understanding of the
position's requirements and emphasizes your qualifications. Be sure to
include any important information about yourself that you may have omitted
during the interview.
- If necessary, a third paragraph to correct any misunderstanding
the interviewer might have following your meeting. You can also use this
paragraph to counter an objection the interviewer raised about an aspect of
- A final paragraph that expresses your interest in the position
and the company.
Here's an example of an effective thank-you letter:
I appreciate the time you gave me yesterday
afternoon. I felt our meeting was as enjoyable as it was
After thinking about your Regional Sales
Manager position and the goals set for it by the home office, I'm confident
that I would be able to meet and exceed those numbers. Bill, as we
discussed, I've had extensive experience building both distributor networks
and direct-sales organizations in the specialty chemicals industry (as well
as in others). My record has been stellar, with numerous awards and bonuses
for outstanding increases in revenues and new accounts, plus the
recruiting, training and development of talented and promotable sales
I consider your Regional Sales Manager position
to be consistent with my plans for growth. Additionally, your company is a
leader in the industry, with an outstanding reputation for rewarding top
producers. In short, Bill, I think the job would be an excellent career
move for me.
Thanks again for the meeting, and I look
forward to hearing from you.
It's Time to Call
Five to seven days after mailing your letter, place a follow-up call
with the explanation that you want to make sure the interviewer received
Undoubtedly, you'll be told that your letter arrived and was read.
What's important, though, is that while your competition is still hoping to
hear back from the company, you're talking with the person who will make
the hiring decision. This gives you the opportunity to deepen your
relationship and move ahead of other applicants by engaging the manager in
a stimulating conversation.
Good subjects to discuss on the phone include any aspect of the position
that remain unclear. You could revisit an important issue from your
interview or elaborate on a key point. You also might ask an insightful
question about the job, the manager's department or the company. If you
heard of a significant business development, ask about its effect on the
Your objective with this call is to introduce a topic that piques the
manager's interest and allows the two of you to have a meaningful
conversation. Ideally, your would-be boss will suggest getting together to
continue talking in person. (You can even make this suggestion yourself.)
If you're able to arrange a second meeting, you'll gain an enormous
advantage over other applicants.
Another particularly effective step is to expand your research efforts
after your first interview, then discuss your findings with the hiring
manager during the follow-up call. Briefly explain what you've learned and
suggest getting together to discuss your observations and the questions
raised by your research.
Mark Leavitt, an automotive-services operations manager in Boston, used
this approach to schedule a second meeting with his prospective boss and
eliminate his competition entirely. After an initial interview, Mr. Leavitt
called his contact, John Geer, president of C. J. Resources Inc., a holding
company in Lexington, Mass., with interests in real-estate development,
petroleum marketing and automotive services. He initiated a conversation
about the changing technologies in automotive services, and impressed Mr.
Geer with his knowledge and vision. Mr. Geer arranged a second meeting, and
hired Mr. Leavitt a few days later.
You can't count on all managers to schedule second appointments, but by
making follow-up calls, you'll strengthen your relationship with hiring
authorities and perhaps become the leading contender.
Of course, if you have another job offer in hand, your call is a good
time to advise your contact of the situation. If possible, give a date by
which you've promised to tell your decision to the other employer. If the
hiring manager views you as the top candidate, this could expedite the
company's decision making. Remember, only use this technique if you truly
have another offer, since many companies don't want to rush hiring
decisions and may respond by crossing you off their list.
What's Taking So Long
A hiring manager's selection decision often is subjective and based on a
range of issues unrelated to your competence and background. For
Managers often meet with several equally qualified candidates, then have
difficulty deciding which one to hire. The person who expresses the
greatest desire for the job typically gets the nod in a close race, since
he or she has proven the necessary enthusiasm and commitment that companies
seek in new hires.
Hiring managers typically face three potential problems. The person they
- reject the offer outright
- ask for time to consider the offer, then turn the job
- accept the offer but never start work after receiving a better
offer elsewhere or accepting a counteroffer with a current
By conveying that you view the position as an excellent career move,
you'll relieve hiring managers of these concerns. They'll know that you'd
accept a fair offer, which provides an additional incentive for them to
Let your competition job hunt by the book. Focus on earning the offer by
writing and calling the hiring manager. Other applicants will be waiting by
the phone while you're building a relationship with the person who can hire
you, and you'll generate many more offers as a result.
Mr. Marcus is a career counselor and resume
writer in Sarasota, Fla., and author of "The Resume Doctor" (1996) and "The
Complete Job Interview Handbook" (1994), both published by