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6 Common Thank-You Note Mistakes That Hiring Managers Hate

"I receive hundreds of thank-you notes each year," says one recruiter. "Unfortunately, many are terrible."

6 Common Thank-You Note Mistakes That Hiring Managers Hate

[Photo: Ilya Pavlov via Unsplash]

My team and I interview hundreds of job candidates each year. And that means I receive hundreds of thank-you notes each year. Unfortunately, many are terrible.

The first thing to keep in mind any time you're writing to thank an interviewer for taking time to chat with you is that many other people are doing the same. You want to stand out, but for the right reasons. Hiring managers and recruiters are always looking for reasons to push one candidate toward the front of the pack and disqualify others—that's their job.

So that means that what you may think of as a simple convention of thank-you note writing is actually a blunder that your interviewer sees multiple times a day. That's bad. Here are six of the most common of those mistakes that you'll want to avoid.

1. Formatting Them Like Letters

The decision of whether or not to proceed with a candidate for a job search is often made within hours, not days, of an interview. So while a handwritten note may be classy, emails are simply the best way to go. They’re more immediate than letters and more formal than texts.

But a thank-you email needs to look like an email, not a letter. Don't include your return physical address or the interviewer’s physical address. And skip the overly stuffy, formal language—you want the reader to get excited about you, not want to take a nap.

2. Writing Big, Dense Paragraphs

Do you frequently read non-urgent emails that are more than a paragraph long? Do you do that on your smartphone? Exactly.

Long, dense emails get placed on the "I’ll-read-this-when-I-have-more-time" back burner. If you want your thank-you note to be read quickly (or at all), make it easy for the interviewer to do so. Keep it short, concise, and to the point.

3. Rehashing A Failed Interview

The interviewer was there, too, and knows what was covered. You don’t need to recap the entire conversation. If you didn’t do well during the conversation, a very long, unpleasant-to-read, repetitive email isn't going to turn things around for you.

If you think you performed poorly (and it happens to the best candidates!), accept your losses, figure out what lessons you learned, and move on to the next opportunity.

4. Asking To Connect On LinkedIn—Or Worse, Facebook And Instagram

Wait at least until you’re invited back to a second round or get some positive signals from the company before shooting out LinkedIn connection requests. Sending a LinkedIn request to an interviewer too early is like asking for a second date when the other person isn't into you. Facebook and Instagram are even more intimate—so avoid them until you're actually hired and have become real-life friends with the person who hired you (in other words, until much, much later).

5. Self-Plagiarizing

Sending the same message to everyone who interviewed you is both lazy and counterproductive. In many cases, hiring managers within the same company or recruiters within a firm will often share messages with each other and will think less of you for sending the same message to multiple parties. Besides, any reader can tell when an email is generic. Personalized, thoughtful messages will give you the greatest positive impact, and they don't have to be long, arduous things to write (see mistake No. 2 above).

6. Writing Merely For Etiquette’s Sake

Etiquette, like all cultural norms, changes over time. In many ways, writing a thank-you note for an interview is an outdated practice in its own right. After all, both parties invested their time. The interviewer was just doing her job. No one was doing anyone any favors. So why say thanks at all?

The thing is, that isn't a thank-you note's main purpose. Instead of writing a generic thank-you because you feel protocol compels you to, craft a thoughtful follow-up note on a specific topic or even an article relating to something you discussed during the interview.

In other words, use it as an occasion to move forward the conversation you had in person. If it’s really thoughtful, the interviewer will be inclined to continue it. And as a bonus, it'll just be more enjoyable for her to read. All of this serves your purpose better—and, hopefully, brings you one step closer to an offer.

Mathilde Pribula is a partner at the HR executive search firm Frederickson Pribula Li, where she leads the search practice for high-growth startup, tech unicorn, and Fortune 100 clients.

Related Video: Avoid these common mistakes at your next big interview.
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