The Strategy Behind the Post Interview Thank You Note

November 28, 2007 at 12:09 am Leave a comment

By John Hartnett

The job interview is over and you’re feeling good about your discussions, the company, the opportunity and the hiring manager’s apparent interest in you as a candidate. What’s the next step?

Most people recommend that you send a thank you note — often one that’s preferably handwritten — thanking each individual for taking the time to meet with you and to briefly reiterate your continued interest in the position, should that be the case. Putting myself in the shoes of the hiring manager, I think there is more a prospective candidate can do with a thank you note to differentiate themselves from those they are competing against.

My approach when interviewing with a hiring manager is to regard that individual as someone with a problem or a “pain” they’re looking to you to provide a solution for. So what are examples of pain points within the context of an open position? Perhaps it’s a need to hire someone to handle responsibilities that are either not being addressed due to the unfilled position or are being delegated to someone who is either too busy or not qualified. Could be a need to find someone who can get up to speed quickly, because there is little time or resources available for mentoring and training. Perhaps it’s a need to make process changes to increase productivity and reduce expenses. Maybe the need is revenue based — a sales rep already equipped with a Blackberry full of contacts to expand or create a new market.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t know all the pain points coming in to an interview but it will matter to you and your chances of being hired if you’re unable to identify them during the course of the interview.

An insightful candidate will ask probing questions to get a strong sense of the pain points or needs the hiring manager hope to address with the new hire. What are some typical questions that will reveal what the manager needs to strengthen a department or team? “What are the biggest challenges you currently face in your department?” “Is this a newly created position or one that was recently vacated?” “What are the short and long term expectations for this department from the perspective of senior management?” “How would you categorize the relationship between departments that are dependent upon one another?” “Has the company invested in or kept pace with new technologies?”

These questions help to shape the course of the interview and to provide you an opportunity to deliver concrete examples from your work experience that are directly relevant to the needs of the hiring manager and the organization at large. Which brings us to the Thank You letter or letters — for my recommendation is to send two.

I have had good success in the past writing two thank you notes — the first — a same day or immediate next day email to those you met during the interview process: the HR contact, the hiring manager and anyone else you sat down with for an extended period of time. The email need not state anything more than your thanks to those you met for taking the time, that you are very interested in the position, etc., with a line included in the email to the hiring manager that indicates that a more formal note will follow to address what was discussed in the interview.

This follow up note, which is sent regular mail, should underscore your interest in securing the position and substantiated as best you can by “mapping” your skills and experience to both the requirements in the job spec –and most importantly –whatever specific needs or sources of pain came out of your discussions with the hiring manager. Put another way, your goal in the second thank you letter is to communicate directly how you will contribute to the organization within the context of the stated expectations and employer needs associated with the position your are interviewing for. Indirectly and perhaps more subtly, the letter should help persuade the hiring manager that you will make his or her life easier.

Whether the Thank You letter is handwritten or printed is entirely up to you — but as a former hiring manager, my feeling is that the message makes a bigger impact on a hiring decision than the format in which it’s conveyed.

© 2007 John Hartnett


Entry filed under: Getting Hired, Interviewing Tips. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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November 2007


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