you’re making these 5 mistakes in your interview thank-you notes

You probably know that it helps to send a thank-you note (which I prefer to think of as a follow-up note, not a thank-you) to your interviewer after you meet. But it’s not just as simple as “send a note.” If you don’t handle them well, they lose their effectiveness.

Make sure you’re not making these five mistakes when you send a post-interview note of thanks.

1. Treating it as a perfunctory exercise. Too many job candidates view thank-you notes as just one more box to check off in their job-searching steps. They send generic, perfunctory notes that signal “I’m just sending this because I heard I was supposed to.” These aren’t especially useful or impressive to an employer; they really just convey that you read somewhere that you should send a note, and you’re dutifully doing it. Instead, your note should be truly personalized and should build on the conversation that you had in the interview. If it just conveys thanks for in interviewer’s time and reiterates that you’re interested in the job, it won’t add much to your candidacy.

2. Thinking of the note as being merely a thank-you. The job search advice industry has done job seekers a disservice by using the term “thank-you notes” to describe what they should send after an interview. The reality is, most interviewers don’t really care if you thank them for the interview; they’re not interviewing you to be charitable but rather because they might want to enter into a business arrangement with you – one that they’ll benefit from. So, despite the term “thank-you note,” your note shouldn’t be as much about giving thanks as about following up on the interview in a way that demonstrates your enthusiasm for the job. It should build on the conversation from the interview and explain why you’d be a good fit for the job.

3. Sending a thank-you gift.Believe it or not, some people send fruit baskets or other gifts after an interview. Do not do this. You will unsettle your interviewer and create awkwardness – and it won’t help you. If you’re not qualified, a gift isn’t going to change that. And if you arequalified, you’ve now made your interviewer uncomfortable by implying that you think your qualifications aren’t enough on their own, but that the interviewer might be swayed by a basket of apples. It’s tacky and ineffective.

4. Writing your note ahead of time. Some job-seekers write their notes in advance, figuring they can then just hit “send” on the email after the interview. But this means that the note will truly just be a thank-you; it won’t be able to reference anything from the interview conversation, and thus it squanders the most important method for making these notes effective – showing that you can build on that conversation.

5. Handing your thank-you note to the receptionist as you leave the interview. Not only does this suffer from the same weakness as the previous item – denying you the chance to reference specifics from your interview – but it also makes it clear to the interviewer that you did so. When it’s obvious that you wrote the note ahead of time and planned to drop it off as you left, it drains much of the significance of the gesture and turns it into one that conveys only “I’m checking a thank-you off my list.”

Remember that from the interviewer’s perspective, a thank-you note doesn’t just signal manners; more importantly, it signals interest. Interviewers want to know that you went home, thought about the discussion, digested it all, and concluded that you’re still enthusiastic about the position. If you hand a note to the receptionist as you leave, enough time hasn’t passed for that to be realistic.

I originally published this at U.S. News & World Report.

{ 29 comments… read them below }

  1. Victoria*

    Very apropos, I just got back from an interview and was about to write one :)

    Here’s what I usually write in a note. Is it ok?

    Dear hiring manager, thank you so much for the opportunity to interview for your open suchandsuch position. I greatly enjoyed meeting you and learning more about the company!

    I feel that I would be a great asset to you and Company because of my XX and YY skills. I’m also excited about the prospect of blahblahblah (insert other random crap that was discussed specifically in the interview if possible).

    Thank you and and I hope to hear from you soon!

  2. Jeff*

    Or better yet – don’t send one at all!

    I have been in the workforce for almost 30 years, and I had never heard of sending thank-you notes to interviewers until I started reading this blog a few weeks ago.

    During the years when I was the person doing the hiring I must have interviewed more than 1000 applicants in total. Not once did I receive a thank-you or follow-up note, so it cannot be as common a practice as this blog would make it sound. Is this an American thing (all of the interviewing I did took place in Canada or the UK)?

    As a side note, if I had received a thank-you note I likely would have counted it as a strike against a candidate for trying to suck-up too much.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes, it appears to be an American thing. Telling people here not to do it or they’ll look like suck-ups would be like me going to a blog in another country and telling them not to abide by the hiring customs there.

      1. GeekChic*

        It’s very American. That said, I hired in the US for 10 years and never received either “thank you” or “follow-up” notes from any of the candidates. I never expected them.

      2. Jeff*

        Fair enough. But I only said that I would have considered it as sucking-up, and that was after I mentioned my location(s). I have no idea how others here in Canada would perceive it.

        Your blog is available to readers world-wide, and much of the advice applies universally, but this particular custom was completely unknown to me. I am glad to hear that it is more of an American practice, hopefully it does not migrate northward.

        1. Unsan*

          The first time I sent a post interview note was about 14 years ago. I have to say I wish it were not a custom… :)

  3. HDL*

    Should you send a thank you/follow up note after a phone interview? I had 20-min phone interview last week and I did end up sending a short email expanding on some of the topics we had discussed and expressing my enthusiasm for the position. Is this a good thing or does it seem like overkill after such a brief conversation? I haven’t heard back yet regarding an in-person interview, but I expect they are making the selections this week.

  4. Ackee*

    I just can’t see why a thank you note makes any difference if the candidate made a positive impression during the interview. What exactly is the thinking behind the thank you note? If I were the hiring manager I would be able to glean from the coverletter and interview whether this person wanted the position and after the interview their feelings had not changed. Would you eliminate a candiate because he/she never sent a thank you note or followed up?

  5. Ackee*

    I’m going to say something slightly controversial: male hiring managers don’t care at all about receiving a thank you note. I just can’t see them being bothered. I however can imagine female hiring managers expecting the note acknowledging the time they spent interviewing the candidate.

      1. Sarah C.*

        I sent my note via email – my interviewer’s preferred method of contact with two questions, a thank you, and then to make sure I stood out by mentioning my skills again. I mentioned a bit of our conversation because we both had to work diverse jobs in many areas. She was impressed with how versatile I was and it pays to keep attention focused on what you are told is good about your work history.

        I wanted to make sure to summarize my interview, to recap who I was as a person and my experience. I can only imagine how many candidates they see and it would make sense for one to want to stand out in a positive way. Plus they had to go way out of their way to the area near where I live which meant the presenters drove from hours away, staying in hotels. This is the first company I’ve heard of doing this so I’m going to make sure their efforts by the staff are appreciated.

        I was told as a kid that it doesn’t cost anything to be nice but if you’re a jerk it can cost you a lot. Maybe I’m a suck-up, but I’d rather be remembered as a nice person who had the skills to get the job than the more qualified person who forgot to acknowledge the effort of the people who interviewed me.

  6. Astonished*

    I don’t understand this. I really don’t. People’s days are so filled with projects to get through and interviewing someone only adds to their list of things to get through the day. So, why not take the time to say thank you to the person who took time out of their day to interview you? Thank you for your time!

    1. Jeff*

      Sure, but saying thank-you face to face at the end of the interview is sufficient.

      Sending a personal “commercial” disguised as a thank-you note – aside from coming across as a cheesy, commission sales tactic – would only add to the list of things they need to get through.

  7. NoName*

    What industries are thank you notes expected/traditional, whatever you want to call it? I work in Finance and Accounting for a manufacturing company and part of my job is to recruit employees and help decide who gets hired.
    Honestly, a thank you note is never expected, not needed, and will never sway my opinion. If I remember the candidate, I remember, if not then I didn’t think they were a good fit.
    My point is, a simple, “Thank you for the interview”, at the end of the day is fine with me. The HR person I recruit for feels the same way and she has been doing this for years.
    AAM, do you like thank you notes? Does it make a difference when you hire? How did they start and why should we continue to follow this tradition?

  8. Astonished*

    Thank you notes/follow up notes show that you’re still genuinely interested in the job and it’s just a polite thing to do in my opinion. But that’s just my two cents. Thanks for this thread. I appreciate it. Thanks Alison!

  9. Lily*

    I’m astonished that commenters are so negative about follow-up. Do you as the interviewer never ask questions of the applicants that they can’t answer immediately? Isn’t it legitimate to ask them to follow up? That is what I did and I figured that those who remember my requests from the interview were more likely to pay attention to my requests if I hired them.

    1. Jeff*


      The situation you present – having the interviewer specifically request that a candidate follow-up later – is an entirely different situation than candidates sending unsolicited follow-up/thank-you notes.

      If an interviewer asks someone to follow-up, then of course they should do it. And I agree with you that whether or not they follow through on such a request would tell you something useful about the candidates.

      However, when I was interviewing people I would clearly explain to them all the stages/steps in the hiring process and the timelines for each step. In that context, if a potential employee were to them send an unsolicited thank-you note then it would have also told me something useful about that person – that a) they could not follow simple instructions, or b) that they thought that the rules that applied to everyone else did not apply to them for some reason.

        1. Jeff*

          Since it isn’t common practice here it would, to me at least, appear as if someone was trying too hard to stand out.

          I would consider it as similar to when an ad is posted that says “no phone calls” and someone calls anyways.

  10. Anna J. W.*

    I’m curious. Is there a site where I can see examples of follow up notes? I know they are necessary but I still really can’t imagine what one would write. “Dear hiring manager, thank for the opportunity blah blah blah, just wanted to reinforce my qualifications, thank you, the end!” ?? I can’t seem to come up with any letters in my head without them sounding very forced and shallow.

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