Stand Out as a Candidate with Two Little Words

It seems to be becoming more and more frequent that candidates ask our recruitment team if the thank you note is a thing of the past.

There are some things that never go out of style. Saying ‘thank you’ is one of those things.

Showing appreciation is one of the things that makes a candidate stand out from the crowd. Appreciative candidates are always more desirable than candidates who seem disinterested or blasé about a position. Don’t take it as a given that all candidates will demonstrate this trait. In fact, you may be the only candidate in the talent pool to send a thank you note.

So, if fewer and fewer candidates are sending a thank you note, why should you? Other than good manners and professional behavior, what other in-demand competencies do you demonstrate when you send a thank you note?

Effective Communications. Regardless of the role and amount of experience, communication is likely a requirement. Whether its communicating with colleagues, leadership, or direct customer interaction, the ability to effectively share and consume information is often necessary in today’s work environment. Trends over the last decade or so have shown that even job roles that previously were largely done independently now require additional collaboration and supports. This can be an ability to record accurate data in a log or chart or more and more frequently, an ability to work within a cross-functional team. The thank you note gives you the opportunity to demonstrate strong writing skills and an understanding of professional communication styles.

Tips: Thank you notes should be written using professional writing styles and punctuation. This is not the time for short-hand or text-speak. Use spell and grammar check features, but also re-read or have a friend who has strong writing skills review for typos and clarity. Electronic tools can never replace taking the time to re-read. These tools may miss typos that could cause embarrassment. A poorly written thank you note can be just as damaging as not sending one at all.

Initiative in Action. Many managers will ask a series of more traditional and behavioral questions in an attempt to determine how a candidate thinks and acts at work. One of the things commonly focused on is identifying how a candidate has demonstrated initiative in the past. Is this candidate someone who takes action when something needs to be done? Are they even able to identify the next logical step on their own? While writing and sending a thank you note may seem a small thing when compared to the larger functions of the job role you are applying for, it is a concrete example of your understanding of what should be done and your ability to step up and do it.

Tips: For a thank you note to be effective in demonstrating initiative, it should be sent the same day or following day. Waiting several days from the interview to send a thank you note makes it feel like an afterthought, that you are hesitant, or that you don’t have a sense of urgency.

Building Interpersonal Relationships. Like communication skills the ability to build relationships with others is a highly sought-after skill. Even more so in this current environment where people need to be able to connect in productive ways in a virtual environment more than ever before. A key component of building relationships is demonstrating the ability to not just network in the short-term, but to maintain connectivity and collaboration on-going. Consider more sales-forward communications you may have received, “thank you for being a valued customer” or “we miss you” messages.  The use of thank you letters in marketing lets the customer know they are appreciated while inviting them to learn “what’s new” or “what they have missed.” This type of marketing is not unique to sales. Relationship building in general excels when someone is able to express gratitude, whether it is a colleague doing a favor, a partnering department getting you information necessary to a project, or a vendor providing exemplary service. While taciturn or intimidating people may instill fear of not doing a good job, those who are grateful inspire people to go above and beyond. A thank you note underscores that you understand how to motivate and inspire people as well as build a relationship founded on mutual respect and appreciation.

Tips: Personalize the thank you note. A cookie-cutter thank you note will not be as effective as one that is specific to the position and thoughtful in how it is worded. Just like you can tell when you receive a mass email from a retailer vs. direct outreach from a representative from an organization you support, so too can a hiring manager. A great practice is to reference something from the interview in the thank you note. Perhaps you and the hiring manager had a discussion about the culture of the organization, new technologies being used to support automation in your field, or perhaps that you both support the same charity. Personalization demonstrates that you are thoughtful in how you respond and begin to build relationships.

Follow-Up and Follow-Through. While follow-up and follow-through requires initiative, not all people who have initiative exemplify these skills. People with strong leadership competencies or potential understand the difference. Whether it’s managing up or getting the job done, follow-up and follow-through is essential. When a project is assigned, do you do your piece and leave the rest to others, or do you demonstrate the ability to follow-through to ensure that a project meets completion? When you share a report with your boss and ask for feedback, do you follow-up if you don’t hear back or leave it with your boss for several days or weeks for them to follow-up on? A thank you note provides the opportunity to demonstrate that you are the type to do more than the bare minimum and demonstrates qualities of leadership.

Tips: If there is an action requested during the interview, complete it immediately and provide a status update in the thank you note. This could be filling out an online application, providing references, or sending in a sample project or link to an online portfolio. Remember, the thank you note should go out the same day as the interview or the day after, so do not procrastinate on completing the request. If no request was made, you can still demonstrate this skill by showing an action you took related to a skill you don’t have in abundance. For example, if the company uses a different data management system than your current employer, look up the system and compare it to what you use. Explain your thoughts on the differences and how you can transfer your current knowledge to their job role. This shows that you will follow-up and take initiative when you don’t know something to learn. This will stand out against other applicants who may also not have that skill and provide the stat response that they are a ‘quick learner.’

Reiterate Skills and Competencies. The thank you note may be your final impression, making it the last chance to pitch your skills. The thank you note gives the candidate the opportunity to providing a closing argument for why they are the best fit for the job, and to reiterate that after the interview they continue to be interested in the job. Anyone who does not send a thank you note misses out on this opportunity.

Tips: Be genuine. Supply examples of what you have done that support your argument that you are the best one for the job. Be concise and keep the thank you note to one page.

While some people and websites may direct candidates that thank you notes are a thing of the past, we still continue to receive positive feedback from our customers about those who take the time to provide one. Taking this action, and doing so in a thoughtful manner, makes the candidate stand out from others who aren’t willing to put themselves out there or do more than the minimum during the interview process. I encourage you to take this step after your next interview.