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Troubleshooting Your Job Search (Part 5 of 5): How thank-you notes affect the interview process

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The Internet is teeming with critiques of post-interview thank-you notes, using words like “archaic,” “performative,” and “Victorian.”

I’ve witnessed that this topic generates a lot of anxiety, so please believe this message: It is not a big deal. Really. Like holiday cards! If you want to do them, please do—because you want to. On the other hand, if you are against sending a thank-you note, skip it and don’t fret.

Here’s my FAQ on thank-you notes:

Why send a thank-you note?

In my experience, positive communication from candidates is a good thing. As a recruiter or hiring manager, I don’t want too much communication. I generally don’t want to engage in extra two-way communication outside the process or timeline. But it doesn’t hurt to send a short note that indicates, “Hey, I’m still interested,” with no expectation of a reply.

How often does a candidate get rejected because they didn’t send a thank-you note?

Almost never. The occasional “archaic, Victorian” hiring manager may insist on making decisions that way. (And if you are also a stickler for thank-you notes, then it’s a good fit!) Mostly, you can trust that the decision will be made based on the interview.

Can a thank-you note count against a candidate?

Almost never, especially if it’s positive and a relatively generic “thank you.”

However, more than once, I have seen a follow-up message count against a candidate, so heed this cautionary tale. Think twice before sending an email that is too long and detailed, that attempts to elaborate on answers provided in the interview, or that provides additional information that wasn’t requested. Taking that as a signal of the individual’s communication style, hiring managers will run away from those candidates.

Is it okay to send the thank-you note via email, or do I have to write a paper note and mail it?

Email, please! Get that note into their inbox within a day or two.

Here in the 21st century, I strongly recommend against a paper thank-you note. Too often, I’ve received a beautiful envelope after I’ve already notified the candidate that they’re not moving forward. It wouldn’t have changed the outcome, but it’s awkward.

I interviewed with several team members. Should I send a group email or send one-on-one messages to each person?

It’s up to you, and ties into your own reasons for sending the message. Is it because you’re trying to land the job, or because you really want to connect with these folks?

It’s doubtful that anyone will be offended if you send a group message. If you send a group email, I recommend using bcc to avoid any “reply all” messiness.

If you take the time to send individual messages, I recommend that you at least tailor them lightly. Often the recipients will forward the messages to HR or the recruiter. Reading the exact same message sent to multiple colleagues can offset the intended impact of the gesture.

As a hybrid suggestion, consider sending tailored emails to the hiring manager and 1-2 others who have been close contacts during the process, then a group email for everyone else.