In today’s fast-paced world of online job ads, mobile apps, and social media networking, does something as old-fashioned as a post-interview thank-you note still mean anything? In a word, yes.
“A thank-you letter is a must,” says Diane Gottsman, owner of the Protocol School of Texas, a company specializing in executive leadership and business etiquette training. “If you and another candidate are equal contenders and the other person follows up with a thank-you note and you don’t, you’re going to lose out,” she says. A thank-you note reinforces that you’re seriously interested in the position and lets you reiterate that you’re the best person for the job.
However, there’s a right way and a wrong way to craft the perfect thank-you note. Make sure you don’t blow your chance to seal the deal by avoiding these 10 common stumbling blocks.
Hiring managers move fast, so your first move should be sending an email the same day as the job interview to ensure that it arrives in time before the hiring manager makes her decision, says Barbara Pachter, author of The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes. “Even if the hiring manager says that you won’t hear back for a while, there’s always a chance that the person will make their decision quickly,” Pachter says.
Sending a generic thank-you note is like submitting a generic cover letter—it doesn’t make you stand out. “You want the person to know that you were present during the conversation,” says Rossi.
She recommends mentioning something that came up during the interview; e.g. “I enjoyed learning about why you joined the company.” Bonus points if you can draw a connection between your experience and the position that you’re applying for, says Gottsman.
A handwritten thank-you note is often overlooked by many job seekers, either out of laziness or forgetfulness, says business etiquette speaker Patricia Rossi. But the good news is that means that putting in the extra effort can help you edge out the competition. Just make sure you pop it in the mail within 24 hours.
The handwritten letter should be on professional stationery. “It might seem minor, but stationery is part of your professional brand,” says Rossi. Order high-quality paper with your name and address printed on it, if you don’t already have it. Also, be cautious of finger smudges or skipped ink on the inside of the card and the envelope, says Gottsman.
Many people are out of the habit of putting pen to paper, says Gottsman, but “no matter how well you communicate your message, it will be wasted if it’s not legible.”
If your thank-you email or handwritten letter contains spelling or grammatical mistakes, it could lead the hiring manager to question your attention to detail, says Rossi. Therefore, make sure you closely proofread both pieces, and don’t rely on spellcheck alone to catch errors; instead, enlist a friend who has a critical eye to help you proof all correspondence.
Time is a precious commodity for hiring managers, says Rossi. Hence, your thank-you note needs to be short and to the point. Gottsman says to aim for six to eight sentences. Tend to be long-winded? Take a look at this sample thank-you note for tips when crafting your message.
If you met with multiple people during the interview process, you need to write each person an individual thank-you note. “It shows that each person mattered,” says Rossi.
These letters should be personalized to reflect the conversations that you had with each interviewer. Besides, if they all work in the same part of the company, you never know if they’ll compare notes—literally. Talk about embarrassing.
If you didn’t discuss money during the interview phase, you might feel inclined to broach the topic in your thank-you note, but this isn’t the right time or medium to start negotiating. (You’ll have the opportunity to do that upon receiving the job offer.) Never bring up pay or benefits in your thank-you note. It’s a time to thank them and sell yourself—not ask what they can do for you.
While it might seem like a nice gesture, sending the interviewer a thank-you gift—whether it’s flowers, a fruit basket, or a box of steaks on ice—is tacky. Worse yet, it might appear like a bribe, says Gottsman. So save your money—and your reputation.
This article originally appeared on Monster and is reprinted with permission.