The Importance Of Thank You Notes
December 6, 2005; Page B10
For job candidates seeking an edge, sending interviewers customized thank-you notes is critical.
"You're helping to jog their memories of you," says Heather Hamilton, staffing-program manager for marketing and
finance at Microsoft Corp. in Redmond, Wash. Recruiters typically interview several candidates for a position, she
explains, noting that in one week she might meet with 10 applicants.
Simply sending a thank-you note isn't enough to stand out from the competition, adds Frank Heller, recruiting manager at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc. in New York. He estimates that 90% of the candidates he interviews make the effort, while about half personalize their letters.
Here are five tips to help you write a tailored thank-you note.
1. Proofread beyond spelling and grammar
If you're interviewing with several employers, check that each thank-you note shows the correct company and recruiter name, advises Theresa Lenczewski, a human-resources specialist for New York-based international advertising agency JWT, a unit of WPP Group PLC of London.
She sometimes receives thank-you notes addressed to competitors, a gaffe she says costs candidates a second interview. "The positions I recruit for involve a lot of corresponding with clients through email so paying attention to detail is very important," she explains.
2. Reiterate your best qualities
"I've had candidates get lost in the shuffle, only to rediscover them when I received thank-you notes that restated their strong points," says Kevin A. Mercuri, associate vice president at 5W Public Relations, a New York-based agency.
"A thank you is literally the last chance candidates have to sell themselves to an employer." A candidate for a senior accountexecutive job once sent him a letter restating her connections with editors at trade publications that Mr. Mercuri frequently pitches. "I forgot about that and it immediately put her at the top of the list again," he says.
3. Show off your listening skills
In 2003, a candidate for a position at Tyco International's ADT Security Services Inc. included a photocopied article from a trade magazine in his thank-you note to Michael Esposito, then vice president of human resources for the Boca Raton, Fla.-based security-services company. "It spoke to the very issue we talked about in the interview," he says. "It told me that this person really was focused on what was going on in our conversation."
4. Tap into the employer's culture -- but keep it professional
Scott Barnum, president of Cocoa Pete's Chocolate Adventures, says he favors candidates who reference the food company's sense of humor in their thank-yous. He's received thank-you notes with "Sweet 300" for the Campbell, Calif.-based company's address.
"It's definitely a plus when candidates show they're aware of the culture," he says. No matter how laid-back a company appears, keep your note professional, advises Bernt Ullmann, president of Phat Fashions LLC, a New York-based designer and marketer of hip-hop fashions and a unit of Kellwood Co. of St. Louis. "It's OK to express some individuality, maybe by choosing an artistic card, but what an employer primarily wants to see is that the candidate knows proper business etiquette."
5. Write to every executive you meet
If you interview with more than one person at a company, send each a customized thank-you note, recommends Dean Fechner, senior manager, U.S. recruiting, at Booz Allen Hamilton Inc.
The McLean, Va.-based management-consulting firm hires between 70 and 100 business-school graduates annually following interviews with four senior executives. "Partners have forwarded thank-you emails from candidates that were identical to the ones they'd sent me," he says. For ideas on what to write, think back to the topics discussed during each interview.