The 5 Steps to Writing an Effective Thank-You E-mail

It is expected, and therefore required, to send a thank-you e-mail to each person who interviews a candidate for a job opening. You have no choice; you have to do it.

A good thank-you e-mail can save a bad interview. On the other hand, a bad thank-you can destroy a good interview. I have seen both. So how do you write an effective thank-you e-mail, one that will get you a follow-up interview or the job offer?

First, writing the e-mail begins with the interview. You have to get the contact information for everyone with whom you meet.

Second, take notes during the interview. Assume that the first question that everyone asks is the issue that is most important to them. Of course, if you are meeting individually with interviewers, they may all ask you the same questions so as to compare notes and see if your answers are consistent. So note a few and, most importantly, which of your answers produced the most intense feedback from the interviewer. It’s a safe bet that that’s the question they really care about.

Third, when it is your turn to ask questions begin with, “If I should get this job, how would I be able to make your life easier?” You may be able to use their responses in your thank-you e-mail. (This question also serves to show that you see your job as helping colleagues, something everyone wants to believe is a characteristic of a new hire.)

Fourth, when you get home, review the questions you were asked and the answers to your “life easier” question. If the interviewers all asked different questions, then focus on their questions. If they were similar, then either pick one for each interviewer or use their answer to your “life easier” question. That will be the focus of the second paragraph of your e-mail.

Fifth, in the first paragraph thank the interviewer for interviewing you.  In the second, as noted, reiterate your answer to their most important question or confirm your understanding of their answer to your “life easier” question.  Next, clarify, confirm or correct anything you may want to change that you said during the interview.  It’s not that you lied, you may simply misspoke or, on your way home, you may have thought of a better answer to a question you had been asked.  This is all perfectly innocent and natural as most people are at least a little nervous during a job interview.  Next, thank them again for interviewing you, reconfirm your interest in the job and tell them that you look forward to hearing from them.

The key is to make certain that each e-mail is different. The interviewers will compare your thank-you e-mails. If they are all identical, that sends the message that you have no imagination, did not listen well during the interview(s), and are average at best. No one hires “average.” While the first and concluding paragraphs will be very similar (after all, how many ways are there to say “thank you?”), not “personalizing” the letter by relating to their questions or answers, means your thank-you e-mail is nothing more than a form letter. No one has ever been offered a job because they sent a form letter.

(And, in case it has to be said, keep it relatively short and proof read it a few times before pressing “Send!”)

This article was originally posted on LinkedIn Pulse: