Stop sending selfish thank you notes

“Write a thank you note to improve your chances of getting a job offer.”

How many times have you heard that? Don’t get me wrong, a thank you note typically benefits you as a candidate. Unless you say something truly offensive or include a picture of your porcelain cat collection, a thank you note won’t hurt you.

If you perform a quick Google search on, “How to write a thank you letter”, some of the most common tips include:

  1. “Reiterate your core strengths.” – Monster
  2. “Reiterate why you are the best person for the job.” – Business News Daily
  3. “Bring yourself back to mind for the interviewer.” – Forbes

What do all of those have in common? You.

Who are you thanking again? Yourself? For some reason I think we’re doing this wrong.

It’s a funny phenomenon. When you write a thank you letter for any other reason, I doubt you apply the same mindset.

Dear Great Aunt Mary,

Thank you very much for the hand-knit bonnet. My hair really makes the orange yarn look stunning. I am confident I look better than every other bonnet recipient on your list. It was great discussing how great I make your bonnets look.

Sincerely,

Chloe

Weird, right? Don’t be a Chloe.

After you interview, think about what you actually appreciated. Did the interviewer provide an insightful answer when you asked about workplace culture? Did you bond with your lunch host over your shared alma mater? These interactions matter. HR representatives and hiring committees are people.

Yes, they are trying to determine if you are a qualified candidate, but they also want to know if you are someone they can work with.

Here are two tips when it comes to writing better thank you notes:

1) Write things down during your interview. Whether it’s an in-person or phone interview, take notes about the conversations you have. When I interview with multi-person search committees, I record the name of each interviewer alongside specific ideas they share. This way, when it’s time to write their personalized thank you note, I’m not forced into writing something vague because I can’t remember who said what. Instead I write,

Dear Taylor,

Thank you for taking the time to explain your supervision style. I truly appreciate leaders who engage in active listening and prioritize professional development.

2) Make the match. Search committees want to hire employees who fit well with their current teams. You have the ability to make their hiring decision easier: make the match for them. To expand on my previous example, it would be advantageous to finish the letter by stating,

Your colleagues emphasized your collaborative nature–that is exactly what I look for in a supervisor.

While I do bring myself into the statement, I still emphasize Taylor. Not because I’m trying to seal the deal on this job, but because I am actually drawn to who she is as a leader and would be thrilled to work with her.

Dear Taylor,

Thank you for taking the time to explain your supervision style. I truly appreciate leaders who engage in active listening and prioritize professional development. Your colleagues emphasized your collaborative nature–that is exactly what I look for in a supervisor. Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,

A Reformed Chloe

And there you have it. Be genuine.

Stop sending selfish thank you notes. It’s kind of – really – not the point.

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