A reader writes:
Last week, I had a phone interview with a very well-respected company in my area. After the interview, I sent thank you emails and cards to multiple people who were involved in the process. I customized each one based on how they helped me, and I sent them the same day of the interview so they could reach the office as soon as possible. Unfortunately, today I just got my rejection via email.
I hear all these stories about how thank you cards give applicants that edge, and that hiring managers look very fondly on them because of their apparent rarity. However, it didn’t work, and I am devastated I didn’t get this job. Are thank you cards losing their power (are more people using this strategy?), or is this the exception rather than the norm?
Unfortunately, there’s a problem with your logic here. Thank-you notes don’t guarantee you a job, and the fact that you didn’t get the job after sending thank-you’s doesn’t indicate that they’re not worth sending.
Think about it: If you think a thank-you note should secure you a job, what happens if more than one candidate for the same position sends them?
So you’re drawing the wrong conclusion here.
Here’s the deal with thank-you notes:
* If you’re not the best candidate for the job, a thank-you note isn’t going to change that. No one is going to hire the lower-tier candidate just because of a thank-you note.
* If you’re the undisputed top candidate, the lack of a thank-you note probably isn’t going to stop you from being hired.
* However, when the decision is close between you and another candidate, a thoughtful thank-you note can tilt the scales in your direction — especially if the note isn’t just a perfunctory “thank you for your time” but contains substance that builds on the conversation you had during the interview.
* A thank-you note contributes to the overall picture of a candidate. It’s not generally make-or-break, but it’s a piece of the picture. It serves two functions: (1) It signals that you pay attention to the little things and care about presenting the best possible face to your candidacy. (2) It signals interest, by showing that you went home, digested everything you learned in the interview, and concluded that you’re still enthusiastic about the position. That can matter.
Now, there absolutely are hiring managers who don’t care at all about thank-you notes. But that shouldn’t dissuade you from sending them because there are also plenty of hiring managers who will tell you that a thank-you note has swayed their hiring decisions. And as the candidate, you have no idea which type you’re dealing with … so of course you should send thank-you’s. There’s just no reason not to do this very small, very quick thing that could impact your chances. Not that it definitely will, but it could. So keep on sending them.