It was January of 1969, and The Beatles were a mess. The recording of an album tentatively titled ‘Get Back' was meant to be a ‘back to the basics' return to their roots, but personal problems between the Beatles escalated and culminated in George Harrison's walking out on the band.
Just as resumes have undergone a dramatic change over the past 20 years, so too have post-interview thank-you letters. Twenty years ago, a resume was typically a one-page document that briefly listed a candidate's overall work experience and academic credentials. As the employment market became more competitive, so did the resume. Today, resumes are powerful marketing tools designed to sell a candidate's skills, accomplishments and expertise in order to give a job seeker a competitive edge over other candidates. The same changes can be said for cover letters.
These changes also apply to the post-interview thank-you letter. In the past, if such a letter was actually sent, it simply stated, "Thank you for your time; I'm very interested in this position." In today's market, however, simply saying thank you is not enough. Candidates need to take this same concept of selling their skills and accomplishments and integrate it into their thank-you letters. A well-written and convincing thank-you letter should be a powerful document designed to continue selling a candidate long after the interview is over.
So, how can you create thank-you letters that present compelling reasons to further your candidacy?
First, in order to create a thank-you letter with the most impact, it must be customized to each person with whom you interviewed. It also should focus on the issue that is most significant to that particular person and the company as a whole. What you include in your thank-you letter will depend on your specific interview situation and what you discussed with each interviewer.
Here is a list of sections you should include in your thank-you letters:
Reinforce points from the interview
It's difficult for a hiring manager to remember every detail of every interview they conduct with candidates. To stand out from your competition, emphasize the important points of your background, as they relate to the company and the specific position for which you are applying. Even if your specific skills and qualifications were discussed in the interview, take this opportunity to reiterate and further expand upon these experiences as they directly relate to the company's operations, current needs and future goals.
Address specific challenges and problems
If the hiring manager shared some of the challenges or problems facing his organization, relate how your experience fills their needs, and reiterate the skills you have to help them solve these problems.
Suppose he indicated that morale is slipping within the department and that it's speeding turnover. Your thank-you letter can describe how you led several key initiatives to re-engage members of your department.
Or, perhaps he/she discussed a work flow challenge the department is facing. Share your past experiences designing and implementing work flow changes that have led to greater efficiencies and increased productivity.
Communicate new information
Everyone walks out of an interview at one time or another realizing there was something really important about their background or qualifications that wasn't covered during the initial discussion. Perhaps there wasn't enough time, or the interviewer's agenda didn't lend itself to discussing that topic or you just plain forgot. Here's where the thank-you letter comes in. It's precisely the tool to use to bring those achievements, experiences, project highlights and qualifications to their attention.
Respond to objections from the interviewer
If the hiring manager communicated an objection to hiring you, address it in the thank-you letter. For example, let's say the hiring manager was concerned that you've never worked in Atlanta, and therefore don't have any professional contacts in that area. Use the thank-you letter to explain how you previously entered new markets and immediately developed strong networks. That's one of the reasons you've been so successful in your previous positions.
Using the thank-you letter as a competitive marketing tool means that they might sometimes be longer than one page. That's perfectly ok. There are no thank-you letter rules that dictate these documents must be just one page long. What should dictate their length is the amount of valuable information you want to include. If the company has already extended you the opportunity for an interview, they're already interested in you. And in most cases they will carefully read any and all material you subsequently forward to them — including a powerful, well-worded and compelling post-interview thank-you letter!