WorkWise: The low-down on post-interview thank-you's

07/30/2012 12:09 AM

07/30/2012 12:20 AM

Accountemps’ International Communications Research survey about thanking potential employers drew responses from more than 500 HR managers in industries as diverse as manufacturing, transportation, construction, and professional, business and financial services, among others.

Most respondents (91 percent) consider a thank-you arriving after an interview “very helpful” or “somewhat helpful.” A whopping 87 percent indicate that email is appropriate; 81 percent, phone calls; and 38 percent, handwritten notes. Some also endorse social media (27 percent) and text messages (10 percent). Are they in concert with other hiring managers and job seekers?


Not all job hunters interview with HR. Tasha Mayberry, vice president of marketing at Corporate Compensation Plans Inc., in Danbury, Conn., reports 12 offers from as many interviews for entry-level to corporate positions. She accepted eight. Some HR representatives conducted preinterviews in-person or by telephone.

Unemployed in 2008, Mayberry shifted from handwritten notes to emails. “These days decisions and impressions are made quickly,” she says.

While you can’t argue with her success, not all of today’s job hunters thank electronically. Carl Berg of Columbia, S.C., after 22 years in the Army, rarely goes to HR. Instead, he focuses on “finding out who my boss would be and then talking to that person’s boss,” he reveals. “I send thank-you notes after every email or conversation.”

To make himself stand out and be more personal, he’s evolved from emails to letters, followed by handwritten folded thank-you cards, to unfolded handwritten cards with his name in raised letters across the top, slipped into envelopes. Some employers have called him after receiving the last, then thanked him.

Brian Kearney used about 50 handwritten thank-you notes to help land four paid internships in three industries. This upcoming junior at Rowan University in Glassboro, N.J., believes they’re personal and more memorable than other forms. He wouldn’t telephone his thanks, because “a phone call almost seems an annoyance.”


Not all employers view the purpose of thank-you notes in any form as a tactic for standing out. Mitchell Weiss of West Hartford, Conn., interviewed countless people in high tech and finance before becoming a University of Hartford, Barney School of Business board member and adjunct professor of finance. Almost all sent thank-you notes.

He includes these notes, like cover letters, as part of the process. He also maintains they convey respect for the person who shared time, even when the influence was negative.

Baxter Denney concurs for all white-collar jobs. He received thank-you notes from about 75 percent of interviewees. “They make you look professional, like a nice suit and looking a person in the eye,” observes the director of inbound marketing and operations at Couchbase Inc., a database technology start-up in Mountain View, Calif.

“Email is the most appropriate,” he continues. “A really simple one takes one minute. Social and text messaging make me uncomfortable. I’d appreciate a handwritten note, but it would be odd.”

Weiss disagrees, mentioning, “Use decent stationery. That’s why God invented Staples. You don’t need special graphics or wording that’s memorable. It doesn’t have to be handwritten. It brings employers back to that interview.”

While it’s clear that HR managers, hiring managers and job seekers don’t concur on the specifics of thank-you notes, most advocate them. Denney and Weiss see them as an important detail in the process.

The job-seeking Berg takes them a step further, remarking, “It might be the deciding factor. In a customer-focused world, why wouldn’t employers see that it would transfer to customers?”

Dr. Mildred L. Culp welcomes your questions at © 2012 Passage Media.

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