should I send a post-interview thank-you if I’m not sure how enthusiastic I am about the job?

A reader writes:

I recently had a phone interview that left me conflicted. There were aspects of the job that seemed like a great fit, while other things said during the interview raised some questions in my mind about whether it would be a good place for me. I was able to ask some, but not all, of my questions. After thinking about it for a few days, I think I might take the position if I don’t find a better option, but it wouldn’t be my first choice. I’d be interested in learning more if selected for future interviews, but am definitely proceeding with a certain amount of caution.

My question is what sort of thank you note should I have sent after this interview? I usually take to heart your advice that the note is a great time to follow up and reinforce interest and qualifications for the position. After past interviews, I’ve done this enthusiastically. However, in this situation, I felt conflicted. I am a very sincere person and it felt wrong to me to fake enthusiasm when I wasn’t sure that I wanted the position. At the same time, I didn’t want to send a perfunctory note that just said “thanks” since I worried that would make me look like I couldn’t be bothered to write more. I ended up sending no follow up, which also seems like the wrong decision. What would you recommend?

Well, as far as the note goes, the question is really whether you want them to continue considering you.

A thank-you note (or follow-up note, which I think more accurately describes what their purpose should be; it’s not really about thanking anyone) isn’t a proposal of marriage. It doesn’t commit you to accepting an offer from them; it’s just something that conveys “yes, I’m still interested in talking” and which, if done well, strengthens your candidacy.

And you are still interested in talking. You’re interested in continuing to engage with them; you haven’t ruled them out. So it makes sense to put your most compelling, polished self forward right now … and that same self can decide what your answer will be if you get an offer later on.

{ 41 comments… read them below }

  1. Adam

    General rule of thumb: continue to engage professionally continuously until you’ve decided the job isn’t for you, then disengage professionally. Once a door has been closed it can be very hard to open it again, regardless of whether they were the ones that closed it or you were.

    1. Anon333

      I think thank you notes aren’t necessarily to move you forward; they can be to literally thank someone for their time. If you reframe it like that, everyone gets one, and it’s not a commitment or false expression of interest.

  2. James M

    Could your note basically indicate that you’re still interested in talking about Job without being insincere? Is your interest in Job contingent upon whether your concerns are addressed?

    AAM: I’m wondering if a follow-up letter is appropriate for mentioning one’s concerns about a job (or, more likely, workplace culture). It would give HM an opportunity to correct what may have been a misunderstanding before either party makes a final decision. Or would a HM read it as a sign of a high-maintenance candidate, and therefore the issue is best left until after receiving an offer?

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I think that’s the kind of thing you want to either talk about face to face during an interview, or address once an offer is made. Putting it in an email or note comes across differently for some reason.

      1. Celeste

        A written request feels like workload for a response; a conversational request would not.

      2. James M

        Makes sense. Type makes it hard to couch a question. OTOH, waiting until an offer materializes may not be justified when you want to ask whether “Game of Thrones” cosplay is a regular event at their office (and couldn’t bring it up during the interview, for undisclosed reasons).

  3. Stephanie

    I’ve had this conflict before. I’ve gone on interviews and thought “Nope nope nope nope” and then end up writing this very forced sounding thank-you note because I know I’m “supposed” to.

    1. Adam

      The OP sounds like she was on the fence about the job and would take it only if something more attractive didn’t come along, but for you it seems like the answer was a cut and dry “Do not want”. If that were the case (and assuming you weren’t desperate for any job), couldn’t you just write a “Thank you but I am withdrawing my candidacy” type note?

      1. Dan

        I didn’t withdraw my candidacy at a particular place until after I was settled in at a new job. Closing the door early could potentially shoot myself in the foot.

      2. Stephanie

        Well, at the moment, I’m out of work so can’t be too picky. I did have a couple of recruiters contact me about roles I had no interest in and knew I wouldn’t excel in (they were similar to a previous job I struggled in), so I did give a polite “thanks, but no thanks” response (it was a bit painful to decline those…). I’m also hesitant about closing doors like others have mentioned.

    2. Dan

      Yup. During my last go, I had an out-of-state interview that was just awful. I was fine with technical aspects of the work, but I din’t establish much of a rapport with any of the interviewers, and one was downright hostile. I walked away thinking, “Nope.” While I was at the airport for my return flight home, I got a decent offer from a local employer.

      With that on the table, the issue with a thank-you note was simple: HELL NO! Like you, I send out a lot of “because I’m supposed to” thank-yous, so it felt nice to not have to force myself to do it.

    3. Colette

      Yeah, I’ve struggled with that, too. It’s not an issue if I know for sure I don’t want the job – but the ones where I might be interested but am not sold on it after an interview are much harder to write.

    4. De Minimis

      I’ve had that happen before….I just wrote a very generic thank-you note and didn’t put any extra effort into it. It was a case where it was obvious they weren’t interested in me by the end of the interview, but I felt like it would be rude to not send anything at all.
      Of course, they never followed up at all, so I guess they were the rude ones. I got another job not long after that so it didn’t matter.

    5. Ann O'Nemity

      I figure that I might as well write the note (or whatever else is necessary) to continue being a strong candidate. It’s impossible to know what’s going to happen in the future. Maybe I’ll get desperate, the requirements of the position change, a new position opens at that company, one of the interviewers moves on the better company, etc. Whatever happens, I want everyone to remember me at my best.

  4. Felicia

    I think since you didn’t get all of your questions answered, it would be a perfect thing to ask in your follow up note…at least the one(s) that wouldn’t be too long to answer. If it was one of those interviews where you knew after that there was no chance you’d take the job then i wouldn’t bother, but i think as long as it’s still possible you might take the job, it’s ok.

  5. Sharm

    I understand this feeling, but always send a thank you note anyway. I know from my perspective, the language I use for the jobs I really want is different than the ones I think aren’t for me. I use more tempered language in the latter version.

    But, as mentioned above, I don’t want to close the door just yet, and no matter what, want to be viewed as a courteous and professional person. So I will always send a thank you note no matter what.

    1. Dan

      If I have offers on the table and I’m not interested in a job, I won’t bother with a thank you. It’s sort of nice to not have that pressure.

  6. GrumpyBoss

    OP, I know I’ve been there, and whatever way I lean, note or no note, I always feel like it was the wrong decision.

    A couple of years ago I went on a very lengthy interview process that was a very poor fit for a number of reasons. I just didn’t figure it out until the last interview. I decided to go silent, while meanwhile praying to myself that I did not get an offer, because I would have had spousal pressure to accept it. They obviously decided I wasn’t a fit either, because I eventually got the “Thanks but no thanks” rejection from them. After the incredibly INTENSE feeling of relief washed over me, I did somewhat regret not sending a professional note to thank them for all the time invested in me, even if it wasn’t a fit for either of us.

    Nobody ever burned a bridge by being polite and thanking someone for their time.

    1. Anonaconda

      I’m with you, it feels rude to me somehow not to at least thank someone for their time. Then again, how do you do that if you’re really not interested?

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        I don’t think it’s rude — they’re not sending you a thank-you note, right? So you don’t have a higher obligation than they do in that regard. It’s just useful if you want to stay in the running.

        But in answer to your question, it would be fine to just say, “Thank so much for taking the time to meet with me yesterday. I really appreciated the opportunity to learn more about the role and the work you’re doing.”

        I mean, that’s an incredibly generic and boring note and not a strong move if you’re trying to strengthen your candidacy, but it certainly fulfills “I want to just thank them for their time even though I don’t want the job.”

        1. GrumpyBoss

          I think the real issue that at least I have with this topic is the label we put on it. It isn’t a “thank you” note. It’s an opportunity to reinforce your solid candidacy and interest in the position.

          I was raised to always write thank you notes. So I always have a little bit of Catholic guilt gnawing away at me if I deliberately don’t send one.

          Not rational, but I’d bet a box of donuts that I’m not alone :)

  7. Laura

    I’d be tempted to say – earnestly and honestly – that I really appreciate their taking the time to talk to me about the job, and that I look forward to talking to them again in the future. Along with anything you want to reinforce about where it clearly is a good fit, but without mentioning concerns – save those for a later interview or (if no later interview) the offer stage.

  8. Traveler

    So, I’m going to be honest and say I stopped sending thank yous when I started having 6-8 interviewers for a job and I wasn’t very interested. Trying to track them all down, get contact information for each one (as there is rarely a good point in the interview to ask in a way that wouldn’t be awkward), and write letters that all sound grateful but aren’t exact copies of one another takes days, and by the time that’s all done its a week later and I’m not even sure how effective it is at that point. I thank them when I am in person for the opportunity.

      1. Traveler

        Right, and if it’s a job I’m interested in – I want to do anything I can to improve my chances, but if it’s a job I’m not that interested in – I’m not concerned with boosting my opportunity. I’m just going to do the perfunctory thanks for the opportunity, not write a letter filled with enthusiasm I’m not feeling. I feel like that would be a waste of my time and theirs. I totally agree though, that if you’re on the fence, you should.

  9. abby

    I was in this position twice. The first time, following the second interview, I was pretty sure I did not want the job. I wrote a very awkward-sounding (to me, anyway) follow-up note. Then I ended up withdrawing because I received and accepted an offer from my preferred organization.

    The second time, I was pretty sure I did not want to job, but could not bring myself to write a similar follow-up note. I felt terribly conflicted about a number of things, but knew I ultimately could not take that job. So I wrote nothing and hoped I would get a rejection notice. But I was offered the job, which I declined.

  10. Bend & Snap

    What happens when you send one and the interviewer doesn’t follow up with next steps as promised, and you don’t really want the job?

    Example: Good coffee meeting, next steps are phone calls to meet the team and for the interviewer to deliver a job description. Thank you note sent from candidate 2 days later. Then radio silence for almost a month.

    What do you do if you don’t want the job really? What if they pop up out of the ether and try to keep things moving?

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      If you don’t really want the job, you could just let it go. No point in going after something you don’t want.

      If they pop up later and are still interested, you can decide at that point if you’re interested in continuing to talk with them.

  11. anon-2

    Another thing – be sure to mention the position title that you were interviewing for.

    I once lost out on a job — I was interviewing for a technical consulting job and one of the principals (the company CEO) thought I was there for a sales job – and had disqualified me – and by the time the company realized their error I had committed to go elsewhere.

  12. thenoiseinspace

    I’ve actually had a (somewhat) similar problem of late: Should you send post-inteview thank you notes if you’re also sending in several completed tests? How many post-interview emails is too many?

  13. Agile Phalanges

    I can really relate to this question-asker, but in my case, it was an in-person interview, and I was definitely not interested in the position after hearing about it (in fact, it wasn’t even a position–they were hoping to cobble together multiple positions between themselves and their clients, and therefore salary was in question, and benefits were unlikely). I would have fully intended to write a follow-up note, in any case, just to be polite, and possibly withdraw from the process, but it honestly never entered my mind. Seriously. I’ve written a note for every other position, and for this one, it was 3-5 days later when it occurred to me that I hadn’t written a note. At that point, I shrugged to myself and figured they likely wouldn’t be contacting me anyway. And they didn’t.

  14. kristinyc

    I usually don’t send a follow-up note if I decide I’m not interested after the interview. (But I’ve had times where they end up following up with me pretty quickly, and I’ve had one time where I was lukewarm about an internship, didn’t send a thank-you, and then ended up taking the job and absolutely loving it).

    It is definitely hard to make the follow-up notes different when you’re in a panel interview. For the job I just accepted (!!!), my first interview was with 2 people, and they got notes. Then my next interview ended up being with FIVE people (including the original two), two days later. Luckily, they called an offered me the job an hour after I left their office, so I didn’t have to try to come up with 5 different notes about the same conversation.

  15. Audiophile

    I’ve definitely had this same reservation in the past, for a job that sounded like it was going to be a hassle. I actually waited several days to send anything, because I really was no longer interested. I ended up sending the same note to everyone and was relieved when they got back to me to say they went with another candidate.

    I’m currently writing thank you notes, where for the first time I’ll be including a brief sentence to highlight something that each person said. I’ve never done this before, never really could remember who said what, especially for larger interviews or where the conversations overlapped. We’ll see if this results in anything.

  16. Monique

    A lot of great points have been made here and this is the exact discussion I was looking for. I interviewed for a job yesterday, and while being really excited about the opportunity, it did become decently clear to me during the interview that perhaps I am a bit underqualified for the position. I do have a solid technical background and am, of course, smart, articulate, and a quick learner…but I don’t have the experience of heading many of the areas that are required in a start-up situation and would not have much guidance. It is an amazing opportunity to see a company grow, but I have always had certain responsibilites handled by other departments, such as Payroll, IT, Ops, etc…and here I would be doing all of this myself with no experience in those areas and expected to have a solid plan when I come in. I am not quite sure this is a right fit for me at this time and could possibly result in a giant belly flop that wouldn’t be good either for myself or the hiring company.

    While I do think they already realized that I don’t have the experiece they are looking for, I really want to thank them for the opportunity and not close the door quite yet while I think this over. Since the follow up note is an “opportunity to reinforce solid candidacy and interest in the position”, how would I write a note that shows enough interest to not count myself out quite yet if it is the “solid candidacy” that I have doubts about?

    Any help is greatly appreciated.

  17. Kyle

    This thank-you confusion just gets so confusing sometimes. I always send a note after every interview, even if I don’t think I want the job. It’s uncomfortable to me to do it all, because I think it’s obvious sucking up, but I do it. One of my family members is in a (non-HR) position of hiring and says while notes are nice, they totally discount them because everyone is told to send them now, so in effect the thank you notes have lost meaning and prove nothing else about the candidates. Sending or not doesn’t change the decision about the best fit anymore, although it used to, at his workplace.

    I had an interview just yesterday where I’m not sure what to do. I
    interviewed late morning and they said they would let me know either the next day, today (a Friday) or on Monday. I did not have internet access to send a thank you before they were apparently going to make their decision. I just got access this night, the day after, but haven’t heard from them. I came here to find comments which might guide me as to what to do, whether or not I should still send one, as it’s likely the decision is made before they’d ever see my thank you. I assume it’s already too late, but just couldn’t helped.

    This job hunting and trying to follow everyone’s different ideas of fhe rules is getting so tiring…

  18. Em em

    help me guys. how can i tell the HR if i recently done with the interview and the company got a email for job offer.

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