how to write a thank-you note after a job interview

If you’re like most job seekers, you either don’t send thank-you notes after your interviews at all, or you do but you’re confused about the purpose of them, and maybe a little annoyed.

It’s a weird convention, after all, since job interviews are business meetings. Why, then, are you supposed to kowtow to your interviewer by sending a note thanking them for their time, when they’re not expected to do the same in return? Aren’t there already enough pieces of the interview process that emphasize the power dynamics at play? Do we really need one more?

But when done right, post-interview thank-you notes aren’t about thanking anyone for their time, and they’re definitely not about being obsequious. At New York Magazine today, I run down how to write a great one (with examples of good and bad notes!). You can read it here.

{ 77 comments… read them below }

  1. Fundraiser

    Just wanted to comment as a professional fundraiser, it is becoming much more common and preferable that interviewees send an email thank you note. It is faster (in a field where timeliness and follow up is hugely important), and since we are in the business of asking for money, many times over email, it shows us a sample of your persuasive emailing skills. Organizations also want people who are forward thinking in their approach to fundraising, so a mailed note seems a little old fashion.

    1. BRR

      I work in fundraising as well and several of my colleagues have expressed a higher preference for thank you notes since a job interview is sort of similar to a donor meeting.

    2. Greengirl

      I also work in fundraising. I tend to send e-mail thank you notes because it’s faster . My office does not necessarily have a preference of handwritten versus e-mailed but thank you notes should happen. I will say that I take time to write them and I send personalized e-mail thank yous to everyone who interviewed me which apparently helped me get hired in my current job.

  2. Anon Forever

    I like to receive a thank you note. Not because I need to be thanked, but because it’s an expression of continued interest from the candidate. Additionally, there have been times, when I had a concerned about the candidate in the interview alleviated based on additional information included in the thank you note.

    1. Mediamaven

      Exactly. I actually won’t move forward with a candidate, even if he/she was my top choice, if I don’t receive one. I just assume they aren’t interested in the position.

      1. Anon Forever

        If the candidate is stellar in all other ways the lack of a thank you/follow-up won’t stop me from advancing them in the process. However, most candidates aren’t stellar. They can be good, even great sometimes, but stellar candidates are few and far between.

      2. Washi

        That’s certainly your prerogative, and if you are hiring someone where being well-versed in business and hiring norms is essential (like senior development person) it’s probably wise.

        I will say that personally, except for the exception above, I wouldn’t eliminate a candidate based on not sending a thank you note, because it won’t end up screening for fitness for the job, but rather how much good career advice they’ve gotten. And that will end up disproportionately disadvantaging people from low-income backgrounds or who don’t have strong white-collar networks for whatever reason.

          1. Greg

            I agree that a blanket policy is not smart, but from my own experience, I’ve found that when otherwise strong candidates didn’t follow up, it was, in fact, frequently a sign that they were not interested in the role.

            Then again, I once interviewed a college student for an internship who was fantastic. I never got a thank-you note from her, though coincidentally, she had previously worked for a guy I vaguely knew from college, and the day after the interview he sent me an email recommending her highly. So I ignored the lack of a thank-you — she was clearly interested in the internship — extended an offer, and she ended up being a great hire.

            At one point during the summer, I told her the whole backstory and asked her (in a non-accusatory way) why she hadn’t sent a thank-you. She swore up and down that she had, and I was inclined to believe her. So maybe it just got lost in my spam folder or something.

            My main takeaway from the experience was to trust my gut and not get overly caught up on following rules too strictly.

        1. Who the eff is Hank?

          >And that will end up disproportionately disadvantaging people from low-income backgrounds or who don’t have strong white-collar networks for whatever reason.

          +1,000

          I didn’t realize post-interview thank you/follow up notes were a thing until I stumbled upon Ask A Manager in my late 20’s. I grew up in a blue collar family and most of my relatives have never been through a formal interview process.

        2. mediumofballpoint

          That’s a great point. I grew up in a working class family and have a middle class job now. I’ve never sent a thank you note, even though it’s kind of a norm in my field, and I don’t like receiving them when I’m on hiring committees. I don’t think they really provide us with any useful information and it’s just another etiquette task to add to an already long and opaque list.

          1. soon 2be former fed

            It’s a courtesy follow-up, and for those who write well can be an advantage. I don’t hire, but if I did I would not eliminate candidates from further consideration because of not sending a thank you , but I would be silently judging them, LOL. Courtesy is good no matter the color of your collar.

            1. Database Developer Dude

              And I’m not so silently judging you, soon 2be former fed. With the power dynamics at play in the job interview process, sending a thank-you note as a courtesy followup is just one more way to allow the employer to exercise a power play.

              I tailor my resume to the job description. I show up at the prospective employer’s convenience for a job interview, I’m on point, well-spoken, my resume is tight, and shows I know what I’m talking about. I express interest and excitement in the position, and not sending a followup note will have you judging me, or thinking I’m not interested in the position? Miss me with that bullcrap. If I weren’t interested, I wouldn’t be applying. I’ve had 10 employers in the last 17 years (my latest employer…I just went over 4 years with)…and I’ve not sent a thank-you note even once after an interview.

        3. Bea

          I feel it’s a copout to say that we poor country bumpkins with our blue collar backgrounds just don’t know better. I clawed my way out of the meth encrusted slums with two hard working laborers for parents. I didn’t go to college but even at 19 I knew how to read a book on crafting resumes and interview tips, it all included the mention of a thank you letter follow up.

          You can’t use excuses like this without degrading a lot of people. Excuses in general are weak.

      3. American in Ireland

        Yes, this is my thought on the purpose of the thank you note, to express thanks and continued interest.

      4. anon24

        I’ve actually never sent a thank you note. My first couple jobs I got an offer during the interview so there was no need to follow up on the process. When I switched fields to my current field I got an interview at the first place I applied and totally forgot to send a follow-up/thank you (I interviewed the week before Christmas so things were slightly chaotic). I was mortified when I eventually realized that I forgot but I got the job anyway, so I’m grateful they didn’t hold that against me because I really wanted to work for them.

    2. mediumofballpoint

      That’s an interesting approach. Can I ask why you’d assume the lack of a note signals less interest? I imagine you’d get better cues about interest in the interview itself.

      1. soon 2be former fed

        The note signals that you are reflecting on the interview after the interview is over, which really is a sign of interest. I only send thank-yous when I want the job. I have gone on interviews where it didn’t matter, so I sent no thank you.

        1. anon for this

          Yeah, I would say that one of the benefits of a well-written note is to communicate interest and show that you were engaged during the interview. This can be a good strategy for non-demonstrative people to reinforce their enthusiasm. But I wouldn’t assume that a lack of note signals non-interest unless there are other indications that the candidate seems unenthusiastic.

    3. AliceW

      Yes, I like to receive a brief thank you email so I know the candidate is still interested. After an interview where I’ve described the job in more detail it is possible a candidate may no longer be interested, but they aren’t likely to say they are not interested at the end of the interview. If they do not follow-up with a thank you email, I do often think they are no longer interested. I don’t send thank you emails after interviews where I have decided I do not want the job.

      1. medium of ballpoint

        That’s so strange to me. I signal disinterest by withdrawing my candidacy if I need to. If interviewers expect a tangible sign of continued interest, then they need to be explicit about that and spell it out.

  3. I Coulda Been a Lawyer ;)

    Not receiving a note has never kept me from hiring someone, but getting one from someone I was “on the fence” about has swayed my opinion in both directions

    1. soon 2be former fed

      How did a thank you negatively impact your consideration of a candidate? Genuinely curious, haven’t heard that much if at all.

      1. A Reader

        I am not the OP, but I have been involved in the hiring decision for an editor position where the thank you email actually had a negative impact. We were on the fence about one candidate and thought about having them come back for a second interview just to get a second opinion, but the candidate’s thank you emails just pushed us away. The candidate misspelled one recipient’s name (even though we had shared business cards) and had a glaring grammatical error in the same email. So it is possible that the thank you email can be counterproductive if you aren’t careful!

  4. Nothingmuch

    I’ve always been aware of the convention of sending out thank yous following an in-person interview. But what about after phone screens? Or situations where there are multiple interviews?

    1. DecorativeCacti

      I had a phone screening a couple weeks ago and sent a thank you note (what if I don’t get another chance?!) but I haven’t sent one following my in person interview with the same company (on Thursday). I don’t want to inundate them with emails, but now I’m questioning if I should.

    2. Catwoman

      This is a really great question that I have wondered about before as well. It’s been awhile since I’ve interviewed, but I think I sent an email after the phone interview and handwritten note after the in-person interview.

    3. Virginian

      I personally send a thank you note after each stage in the process. You never know if it’s going to be your last chance to interact with the employer, plus it’s just a simple courtesy.

      1. A Reader

        I do the same thing. Whether they interviewed you in-person or over the phone, they still took time out of their schedule to talk to you about the position. I have also emailed thank yous to someone who interviewed me several times throughout the multi-step process. I felt kind of silly at first, as I was basically saying “Thanks for interviewing me AGAIN.” I just had to get creative and bring up a new point that was discussed in the second interview.

        In other words, it can never hurt to thank someone!

        1. Database Developer Dude

          And I took time out of MY schedule to talk to them as well. An interview is a two-way street.

          1. jolene

            Oh gosh, so much this. I don’t mind the convention of a thank-you note as another way to push one’s candidacy, but they didn’t take time out of their schedule. Interviewing you was on their schedule as part of their job requirement.

  5. American in Ireland

    I would have a really difficult time writing a thank you letter like in the example. It feels like using a thank you letter as an excuse to brag, whereas I thought the purpose was literally to thank them for their time. But I’m an expat and havent been in US for many years, so this could be a cultural difference? Or perhaps that is just me who is uncomfortable selling myself.

    1. IL Jim P

      I think if you stop thinking of them as thank you letters and more of a follow up letter like Allison suggests it might help you get past that bit of uncomfortableness

    2. Rich Tea

      Yeah, I think it’s largely a cultural thing. I’m in the UK and Alison’s “genuine-sounding” example sounds really braggy and phony to me. It certainly would not come across as genuine at all. Anyone who wrote that after an interview anywhere I’ve ever worked would be thought very arrogant and out of touch.

      1. American in Ireland

        Would her other example, which says thank you for your time and I look forward to the next steps, be more typical? I use something like this, with added detail about the position that is most interesting to me and why.

        1. Library Lass

          I’m in the UK in higher education (not an academic), and have never sent, received, or been given career advice involving thank you notes. It’s not a cultural norm here at all and if I got one I’d assume the sender had been reading a US career advice website.

          If I already knew the interviewers well, I follow up with an email saying “thanks, nice to see you, hope your cat/baby/garden is doing well’ but that’s it.

          1. Kiwi

            Does anyone know if sending thank you notes is done in NZ? Like Library Lass, I’ve never heard or been advised to send them before, and wonder if this is a US-only practice, or if we just follow the UK in this one!

    3. ArtK

      In the hiring process, you’re essentially selling yourself. It’s ok to ‘brag’ a bit when doing that. This is a sales call follow-up.

    4. Danger: Gumption Ahead

      To me the example felt too long. I would not want to read more than 3 sentences from an interviewee. Three paragraphs would make me roll my eyes and not finish

  6. Sarah Peterson

    I always send them but would prefer not to receive them. The only way they might impact my decision is if the grammar or spelling on the note is poor. It certainly doesn’t give them points in their favor. We just had a business encounter where we both spent our time trying to determine if we would be a good match for each other. Why do we deserve a thank you any more than they do?

    1. soon 2be former fed

      Why do you send them? Do you think your preference not to receive them is uncommon?

  7. WalkedInYourShoes

    Personally, I like receiving thank you emails. It’s quick. Professionally, I feel that thank you emails are a way to reinforce your value to and interests in the company. If you are in Sales and vying for a sales role, it demonstrates how you can follow-up with the “lead” or “closing the deal”. If you are in Marketing, it can show off how you market yourself in an email. If you are in Customer Success/Support, it will reinforce how much you care about your “customer”. If you are in Talent Acquisition, it strengthens how you strengthen that “relationship” which you developed over the phone or in person.

    I do recommend a personalized email like AAM mentioned many times and before you press “send” or “enter”, remember to read it out loud so that you can catch any errors. For example, I was hiring a senior person in Sales. The candidate was great. However, this person sent a follow-up email and mentioned the wrong person from another company. As you can tell, this person did not move forward in the interview process.

  8. LeisureSuitLarry

    In my professional careers, I have never received an offer from someone I did not send a thank-you note to. That may be me confusing causation versus correlation. I’ve only not sent thank-you notes when I was definitely not interested in the job.

    As an interviewer, I’m far more likely to recommend we hire someone who sent me a thank-you note than someone who did not. Even a standard, boilerplate, not personalized thank-you note is better than nothing at all. At least I’ll know you’re still interested. Plus it gives us all something additional to talk about.

    Of course, if your interview is particularly horrible and you send me a thank-you note expressing how interested you are in the job when you clearly weren’t in the interview, I’m going to laugh about that and show all the other interviewers. Then we’re going to spend 15 minutes laughing about how bad the interview was.

  9. Carol Pilbasian, The Notary

    A thank you/follow up note was one of the reasons I got my current job! Something came up in the interview, and by my response, they knew I could handle the challenges they were concerned about. I didn’t know that at the time, but after I started working there the hiring manager told me that they were so impressed by that (I sent it mid afternoon after a morning interview) that they immediately decided to hire me and started the process, I got the call a couple days later. So now I’ll make sure to always send them!

  10. American in Ireland

    If following an interview, you are not interested in the job, would you still send a thank you coupled with a withdrawal of candidacy, or send nothing?

    1. Washi

      That’s what would feel most gracious and keeping-of-bridges to me, but I think a lot of people just reply if they are selected for the next step and say it then.

    2. LeisureSuitLarry

      tl;dr: I only send thank you notes for the jobs I want.

      I had an interview a few years ago with a VERY well known game company in the Pacific NW. I knew after talking to the team that I wasn’t interested in the job. (They were looking for someone who likes having a micro-manager that would hover over you until you got them what they wanted. Like, they’d give you a task at 10am with a deadline of 2pm then stand over you until you’d done it. I don’t know what kind of masochist accepted that.)

      Anyway, I really didn’t want them to offer me the job… BUT it would have looked great on a resume and paid me about $25k-30k than I was making. So, crappy job, big name recognition, high salary versus crappy job, big name recognition, and lower salary. So I didn’t send them a thank-you note and let ‘fate’ decide.

      Frankly, after a few hours of the interview, I think I started tanking it on purpose. They asked what kind of management style I liked to work with and after figuring out that it wasn’t going to be a fit I said, “tell me what you want, tell me when you want it, leave me alone.” I must have repeated that phrase a dozen times.

  11. Tuxedo Cat

    Occasionally, I have had interviews with 3-5 people at the same time. Does the advice to send an individual, personalized note still apply? Any suggestions on how to personalize when it’s over the phone and it’s harder to remember who asked what?

    1. mediumofballpoint

      We interview in teams and usually people will send a group thank you to one member of the team and then ask them to disseminate it. I think that lessens the pressure to match a question to a name and allows the note to be vaguer if you need it to be.

  12. Lindsay J

    As someone with a common name, I will warn against guessing email addresses for people with relatively common names, especially in large companies!

    My “official” email address has never followed convention of more uniquely named coworkers because my name is too common.

    In college, our addresses were lastf. I was lastf8

    Current job, the convention is flast. I’m fmlast. Anything sent to flast is going to someone else who I don’t know, and I will probably never see it.

    My mom’s work is lastf, she’s lasf.

    Better just to ask one of your other contacts at the company.

    1. learningToCode

      This reminds me of the recruiter (that I’ve never spoken to) who viewed my LinkedIn profile and then sent me a job listing to *lastf@workplace.edu*.

      At least it’s a massive company so no one’s going to think I’m actually looking, but still… even if I was interested, emailing my work email by figuring out the naming scheme does not endear me.

  13. AnonymousPenguin

    My boss told me that my thank you note got me the job! He had asked a skills question during the interview that I didn’t know the answer to, so I looked it up when I got home and referenced the answer (and how I found it) in the thank you email. He told me that I was the only person who did that, and that he needed someone who didn’t necessarily know all the answers but who was willing to look for the answers and who knew where to find them.

  14. whistle

    Thank you so much for this post, Alison! I have always had a hostile attitude toward the thank you note “requirement”, but reframing it as a “follow-up note” really clicks for me.

  15. nonymous

    I’ve always thought that the thank-you/follow-up letter was just another way to build a working relationship with the interviewer(s). So in the case of most or lesser qualified candidate, there is still value in writing a strong letter because it is just one more way to build up working capital.

    It can also be a good exercise (thought experiment, if you will) to craft the content if one is seeking to change fields or step up in responsibilities, but that’s much more ymmv.

  16. miss_chevious

    A good thank you note in any context (e.g., gifts, job interviews) doesn’t need to say “thanks” at all. To Alison’s point, it’s a bit of a misnomer. In any circumstance it’s a way to communicate that you remember the recipient and you are seeking to continue the relationship. In a gift circumstance it can be something like “I am so touched that you took the time to knit me a teapot cozy. It is just perfect and every time I use it, I will think of you.” And in the job circumstance it will be something like Alison’s example, where you mention your conversation and touch on how you can help.

    1. Catwoman

      I really like this point as well. I’ve not heard it framed that way before, but it’s so true. The same goes with condolence notes.

  17. Blue Eagle

    I agree that follow-up notes indicating interest are a good thing, but I kind of disagree with Allison about sending a note to everyone that you interview with. That always came off as rather desperate to me. As the hiring manager, I would rather have the note come just to me and not to the interviewee’s potential co-workers or grandboss (probably would be OK if they sent a note to their main contact in HR, too).

    1. Lola Banks

      Yes, especially after multiple rounds of interviews. The fact that I’m attending interview #7 should be indication enough that I’m interested in the role. And at that point, I think I’ve sufficiently touted all my qualifications in the first few follow-up notes.

  18. Hiring Mgr

    It’s funny–i’ve always sent follow up notes as a candidate, but as a hirer i don’t really care one way or the other whether i receive one..but anecdotally it does seem like the best candidates send them (which makes some sense…)

    Also, just curious since I don’t know anything about fundraising–why would that industry prefer regular mail correspondence?

    1. Lily Rowan

      Because we tend to be extra formal and slightly old-fashioned, especially in the world of major gifts. Also as the first few commenters noted, it is changing.

  19. CurrentlyLooking

    Thank you Alision for posting this today. I have two (three actually since there were 2 people at one of the interviews) to write today so this is incredibly helpful!

    1. Ambpersand

      Same here! After a phone interview yesterday I had two to send out this morning. Perfect timing!

    2. Ali G

      Ha me too! I had a phone interview for a job I really want this morning. Timing couldn’t be better :)
      Here’s hoping for an in-person interview soon!
      Good luck to you!

  20. PizzaSquared

    As a hiring manager, I hate receiving these. I interview a ton of people, and more emails (or even worse, snail mail) to go through is just adding to my backlog, not adding any value to my day. It also creates a weird communication situation because it’s the recruiter who is supposed to be dealing with things like follow-ups from candidates about status, offers, etc. There’s a reason we hire people to do that — I have a bunch of other things on my plate, and I also had to handle follow-ups from everyone I interview, it would be a big additional workload. And the recruiters are much more plugged into the flow of the process and the types of questions candidates are likely to ask. So by sending me a note, at best you’re adding to my already heavy workload (yes, only a small amount, but if more people do it, it will add up), and at worst you’re making me a middle-man in a conversation that really needs to happen with the recruiter. I really wish there was some effective, yet kind, way to say to candidates “please don’t ever contact me for any reason. If you need something, talk to the recruiter. If he or she needs my input, they know where to find me.” But I know it would come across wrong.

    1. CurrentlyLooking

      Since good job seeking practices all recommend sending these Thank you notes, you will continue to get them.
      And yes, it will come across wrong to tell candidates not to do this. As in, you may likely lose good candidates. I personally would not want to work for someone who can’t take a couple seconds to read or simply delete an email.

    2. Bea

      Reading this comment, please tell people your preference. I wouldn’t want to work for you, our styles don’t match and that’s okay. I can get a job for my skill set so many places, I go on the personality click more than the idea of a “dream job” or “dream company”.

      You’re harsh and like these internal boundaries. I don’t do any of that. We’re all busy, you’re put out by having to talk to.common folk it sounds like, ick.

    3. Jennifer Thneed

      So, if I want to follow up on something in our conversation, I want to send it to YOU, not the recruiter or HR person. If I have questions about the position, the company, status of candidacy, stuff like that, I’ll send it to the recruiter or HR contact. It sounds like you’re saying you never get the first type of follow up note?

  21. CurrentlyLooking

    Question: What should the subject line say?

    This is great information for the body of the email but what should be included in the Subject line? (I have been putting some like PositionTitle with CompanyName)

  22. TweeterOfStuff

    My thank-you note trick is sadly difficult for others to replicate. I happen to share a name with a moderately well-known historical artist, so when I applied for currentjob, I sent a note (basically Alison’s bland thank-you form message) on MyName-print stationary.

    It turned out not to be necessary, as the hiring manager decided on me before the note had a chance to arrive, but she quite liked it and still tells that story on occasion.

  23. Actual Australian

    I find this interesting because it would be completely inappropriate for someone to send a thank you note for a job in government (in my state of Australia). There are very clear structures and protocols in place and deviating from these can rule you out altogether. From my experience it’s certainly a case of “We’ll contact you”. Most of the time there isn’t even an email address to send it to, it all comes from the generic government no-reply recruitment address.

  24. Elmyra Duff

    I had to go through two phone screens and a full day of interviews for CurrentJob. They all sent me thank you notes. It’s pretty indicative of how great this place is to work, and I’m so thankful I’m here and not at OldJob. Where management frequently told all of us peons how much they disliked us.

  25. JobSeekerInDC

    This post could not have come promptly! I had a job interview today, and I think it went well! I learned during the interview that there would be another step (if I were to be invited back) – a skillset test. How would one draft a “Thank You” after taking a skillset test for the interviewing panel?

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