Candidates frequently ask our Texas legal recruiters whether to send thank you notes after an interview. If so, how and when? The question has sometimes vexed us, given the vast changes the information age has brought to the workplace. Not all that long ago, law school graduates were taught to send out hard copies of their resumes on high quality “resume paper” and to always follow up with a note handwritten in black ink on Crane’s stationery.
These days candidates are usually required to submit a resume by email or upload their resume to a specific online application site. Candidates who send a hard copy resume through snail mail risk being seen as antiquated and out of touch – begging the question: how does that affect the business etiquette practice of the follow up thank you?
We took an informal poll among our team of legal recruiters and clients and found some widely divergent opinions – and a spirited, entertaining discussion. So, we decided the issue deserved some prominent consideration.
To Send or Not?
Most in-house and law firm hiring attorneys agree that receiving a thank you note from a candidate will not affect the ultimate decision to hire that person, but overwhelmingly, the majority prefer it and believe that the practice makes a good impression. A few employers recalled getting sincere, thoughtful notes that they remembered long after. Although one or two said they don’t pay attention to receiving thank you notes at all, one said she would decline a candidate who failed to send one.
Our bottom line: It doesn’t hurt and might help, so send a thank you!
A thank you note is not expected after second or third meetings with the same people, only after the first such interview. Anything more would likely be considered overkill.
If your substantive interview is by video conference, consider it the same as an “in-person” interview and follow the same guidelines.
A thank you note is not generally expected or required following an initial telephone interview, but it can be helpful to keep the process moving. It should be very brief – one or two sentences – simply thanking the interviewer for his or her time and stating that you look forward to next steps.
How to Send
Although a few responses indicate prospective employers like handwritten notes and appreciate the extra time and effort they take, the vast majority of those we polled indicated that a thank you note via email is generally preferred as a practical matter – Usually for promptness. Some in-house mailrooms may take an additional two or three days to route internal mail, and a hiring decision may already have been made.
When to Send
A thank you email should be sent the same day as the interview or the following day, while your meeting with the interviewer is still fresh in their mind and before a hiring decision is made.
What to Say
Each thank you note should be personalized and relate back in some way to the conversation you had with the interviewer: Something that was discussed, why you would be a good fit for the job, how you would make a unique contribution, and aspects of the job that are particularly appealing to you, or something along those lines.
Group Thank You Versus Individual Ones
If you met with multiple people, should you send a group note or message them all together or send individual thank yous? That depends: If the discussion was strictly as a group with the same people, it’s probably fine to address that same group with a single thank you acknowledgement. However, if you met multiple people individually and had more individual conversations send separate emails and change the message. One of our internal hiring authorities cited group emails thanking multiple people at one time as one of her pet peeves, so better to lean on the side of individual ones.
Why are thank-you notes important?
At first blush, post-interview thank you notes might seem unnecessary or even overly self-promotional. After all, hasn’t the interviewer already learned everything he or she needs to know to make a decision? Isn’t a thank you note after an interview a bit too showy? Perhaps, but sending a simple, handwritten note says something about you — as does not sending a thank you after interviews. What exactly does a note communicate? Consider the following points:
- The interviewer remained in your memory, and you recall the person’s name.
- You’re willing to take an extra step that isn’t strictly necessary in order to make a connection.
- You want to ensure that the connection continues into the future.
- You’re willing to express your gratitude for the effort the other person expended.
- You understand the long-running cultural importance of thank you notes.
In short, sending a handwritten thank you note after interviews show that you possess the soft skill necessary to succeed in the legal field.
Is emailing a thank you note acceptable?
Experts are split as to whether or not emailed thank yous are as valuable as handwritten notes. On the one hand, emailed notes require significantly less effort than those written with pen and paper. On the other hand, any note can seem insincere if it appears rote or impersonal. While emailing a thank you note may or may not be acceptable depending on your specific situation, interview thank you note etiquette dictates that any communication should always be personal, add value, and continue the conversation that began with the interview.
Can a thank you note change your interviewer’s mind?
A short thank you email after interviews or a tactfully written note won’t generally substantially change an interviewer’s mind after the fact. Many factors go into the hiring decision, such as professional achievement, past experience, fit with the company’s culture, desired salary, number of applicants, and more. However, a thank you note can get you a second look, which may cause an interviewer to note just how well you would do in a particular position.
Job-search website TheLadders.com interviewed Benjamin Farber of search firm Bristol Associates, who said, “A well-written thank-you note can leave a positive impression on the interviewer, showcasing the applicant’s written communication skills, attention to detail, and ability to follow up. It is also an opportunity for candidates to share any last-minute information that they may have forgotten to mention during the interview. … As an executive recruiter, I have always valued and appreciated candidates who put in the time and effort to express their gratitude after an interview.”
Who you’re sending a thank-you note to matters
Whether you want to send a thank you email after virtual interviews or a physical copy once you’ve met someone and shaken hands, there’s a simple rule you should always follow: Your communications should always go to a person you’ve actually spoken with. Wide-banding a “thank you” to anyone in the company whose email you can get a hold of is poor form and leaves a negative impression. Sending a thank you email after an interview to multiple interviewers is fine — as long as they actually interviewed you!
Avoid common mistakes
There are a number of common mistakes that applicants make when they send thank you notes after interviews, and these unforced errors can hurt your job chances rather than helping them. Some of these include:
- Getting the name of the interviewer wrong or incorrectly spelling the name
- Reusing a thank you note and including a name from another company — or the name of the other company itself
- Writing too much (notes should stay pithy)
- Waiting too long to send the note
- Sending a note on low-quality stationery
- Poor penmanship
- Sending notes with recycled verbiage to multiple people within the organization
- Discussing salary or benefits
If you’re looking for a legal job in Texas, contact us at Momentum Search Partners! We’re a member of the National Association of Legal Search Consultants (NALSC) with an established reputation for ethics, discretion, direct communication, and clear judgment.