Post Interview: Recruitment Experts Say Write a Note, Just Not a Thank-You Note

May 14, 2024 | News

By David Gould, Staff Editor                  

Pursuing a new job, or even testing the waters if you’re okay with your current job—is difficult enough on its own. An additional challenge is all the mystery surrounding your status as an applicant, including the question of sending (or not sending) a post-interview thank-you note.

In a bygone era, the hiring process featured fairly consistent communication practices—job-seekers would know in a timely manner where they stood and what, if anything, came next. Communicating back to the would-be employer was a manageable task. These days the protocols and practices are relatively obscure and at times non-existent.

But you can only concern yourself with the aspects of a job search that are within your control. On that note, there was a surprising statement about job interviews made in The Cut, a career-advice column on the New York Magazine website. “Post-interview thank-you notes are a weird custom,” the column said, and that’s partly why they are a “surprisingly controversial part of job searching.” The column goes on to point out that “job interviews are business meetings, and you shouldn’t need to send a note thanking your interviewer for their time when they’re not expected to thank you for yours.”

This degree of inequality can be uncomfortable on both sides. It seems preferable, and in fact more professional, for the interaction to feel and seem colleague-to-colleague. It’s true the interviewer is further along in their golf coaching career, but otherwise you are two people pursuing the same path with a chance to mutually benefit each other.

There’s an Emily Post-like mandate involved with these post-interview notes, to the point where someone may appear lacking in basic manners if they don’t send one. Certainly that’s not the way it is in some corners of our economy, but golf is and always has been a well-mannered world.

So again, the problem is not the note, it’s the “thank you” part.

Picture the email in-box of the person who has interviewed you and imagine they’ve sat with a half-dozen other candidates. The names of your competition have either not shown up in that in-box (these would be interviewees opting not to follow up) or they’ve appeared alongside a subject line that says, “Thank you for your time during our interview,” or, simply, “Thank you.” 

The entire message being sent by these candidates are already expressed, even before the recipient clicks on the email to open it. Things don’t get any better once they do so. The first few words of the email basically have to be, “I enjoyed our … etc., etc.” The subject lines as well as the email messages come off as ho-hum, perfunctory and unimpressive. And if there’s a series of these reach-outs hitting the in-box it’s all the more dull and superficial, for the person doing the hiring.

Now picture another kind of email, alongside your name in the sender box. It’s subject line goes something like this:

  • Point that you made during our discussion yesterday
  • Article I mentioned when we spoke
  • A statistic I found, relative to our discussion

Obviously if you type a line like these you’ll need to back up what the subject line says with something of substance. You can help yourself do that by using the real-time notes you keep during the exchange as a prompt for some post-interview legwork. As long as it’s relevant to material covered in the discussion, it could be something as simple as an old Harvey Penick quote you looked up or an archive photo of an obscure training aid. What the interviewer will see is that you went home and took an action based on something that came up in conversation. At decision time, that sort of initiative could stand out.

Once you’ve put together a follow-up that serves to continue the flow of the interview, a quick and polite acknowledgement at the end of your note is perfectly appropriate. Try something like “I enjoyed our discussion and I appreciate your interest in me as a candidate for the position.” Then just type your name and be done with it.

A few other pointers:

  • Wait a day or two send your note. That will give you time to personalize the content based on what’s discussed in the interview.” Sending a note immediately gives the impression that you’re checking off an item on your to-do list.
  • If you don’t have your interviewer’s address, it’s fine to send your note to the person you worked with to schedule the interview and ask them to pass it along to the person you spoke with.
  • Don’t draw any conclusions if your follow-up note doesn’t bring a response. If you do receive one, it’s a nice extra.