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To please a would-be employer, say 'thank you'

You might be thinking I sound like a throwback from the workplace dark ages, but sending a thank-you note after a job interview can be an important step toward landing the job you want. Your Career by Eve Tahmincioglu.
Forest Whitaker
Job candidates could learn something from actor Forest Whitaker and other Hollywood stars about the art of saying "thank you."Mark J. Terrill / AP file

So you were able to land an interview and you have a feeling it went quite well. Now what?

You go home and wait for the phone to ring? No! Get cracking on those thank-you notes!

You might be thinking I sound like a throwback from the workplace dark ages for even suggesting such a thing, but actually thank-you notes can still play an important role when you’re trying to land the job you want.

It’s hard to find solid statistics on how many job applicants send thank-you notes these days, but most surveys estimate the number is well under 40 percent. This despite the fact that when asked, most hiring managers say they expect a note of gratitude post interview.

“It’s a lost art,” laments Angela Barfield, a manager for CBIZ Human Capital Services and a headhunter with 25 years of experience who has seen the prevalence of thank-you notes slowly diminish in the past 10 years. But a note just could clinch the job for you. “It’s polite and nice,” Barfield says.

Right now, Barfield is in the process of trying to place a high-level manager at a manufacturing company. The candidate she sent made major points among the higher-ups at the firm because he e-mailed two thank-you notes within 24 hours after his interview, one to the top executive he interviewed with and one to the administrative assistant who scheduled the interviews for him.

“The response to those e-mails was so strong, and people were so grateful that someone took the time to do that,” she explains.

Here are excerpts from those letters:

This one was sent to the senior manager:

"I truly enjoyed the chance to speak with you yesterday. It made a frenetic visit well worth my time and travel! You were able to give me that perspective and vision piece that had been missing. It would be a real pleasure to join your team and I do remain very interested in the opportunity to play such a key role in the growth and development of XYZ company. I look forward to hearing what the next steps may be."

This one was sent to the administrative assistant:

"Thank you for greeting me yesterday and arranging for my visit. The time was brief but I did leave with a better idea of the company and a bit of insight into this specific role — Director of Marketing, Clinical Devices. You seem to have a great team of passionate and happy folks there and I remain interested in the chance to join the team. Please give me an idea of feedback you have received, when you get a chance."

Barfield believes the letters solidified the positive feelings the staff had about the candidate and set him apart from the rest of the pack. “Everyone’s response was, ‘This person is professional and classy so let’s move forward with this guy,’ ” she says.

So go ahead, have an Emily Post moment. It might get you the gig.

Here’s a question regarding thank-you notes from a reader:

I had an interview last week, the committee informed me that they would make a decision within a week, I wanted to send a thank-you note but unsure on the proper method. Snail mail or e-mail? I wanted to stand out among my competitors, yet act in a respectable manner. Another question I have: When you interview with a committee do you send a thank-you note to everyone or just the main member of the committee and ask them to pass the words of gratitude to others?
C.S., Denver

I would always send a thank-you note via snail mail. But since you know time is of the essence you might want to drop the note off with the person at the front desk so they get it in time. (Keep in mind, while a handwritten note is always ideal, but if your handwriting stinks use a typewriter.)

If dropping it off is not an option, then go ahead and e-mail your thank-you note. Better a cyber-note than nothing.

As for who to send it to, if the group was three people or smaller I would send each person a note. Make sure the longest note goes to the head decision maker. If the group included more than three people, I would only send a note to the key players, the ones you talked to most  or spoke to individually. And don’t suggest that the person pass the note around, says Barfield. If they want to distribute the note they will.

Also, don’t go thank-you note crazy. Even though the individual Barfield is trying to place sent a letter to the administrative assistant, that doesn’t mean you should start sending out thank- yous to everyone including the janitor. Just make sure the person that holds the main decision-making power gets your message of gratitude.