What is the Proper Post-Interview Thank You Etiquette?

Candidates, no matter which level they are at, spend a lot of time preparing for the interview.  Unfortunately, they often do not execute the same serious preparation for their post-interview follow-up and sometimes sabotage the opportunity for themselves.  The follow-up is just as crucial as the actual interview and the company will continue to evaluate you until a hire is made.  Within my profession, I have found that there are common mistakes that candidates will make in the follow-up.  In this post, I would like to provide some guidance about the proper post-interview thank you etiquette.

Following the interview, our clients expect a thank you within 24 hours.  If possible, same day follow-up is ideal.  The financial services industry works around the clock, so interviewers expect to receive a thank you in a timely fashion.  This practice shows your appreciation for the time they have taken out of their busy schedules to meet with you.  If interviewers do not receive this thank you note, candidates can quickly drop to the bottom of the list.  In fact, I have worked with a few clients that would take candidates completely out of the process if they did not receive a thank you within 24 hours.  It’s important to remember that hiring managers are always looking to reduce the list of candidates in their process.

When drafting the follow-up note, make sure the message is thoughtful and concise.  Highlight your gratitude and interest in the position, show that you have done your research by drawing on information from the Web site, and circle back to a few topics of conversation during the interview.  I once worked with a merchant bank that was considering four applicants: three senior candidates and one relatively junior candidate.  The junior candidate was able to move ahead of the others in the process after he sent a thoughtful and sincere follow-up email detailing how he would build the business and addressing questions about his level of experience.

In both the interview and the follow-up, interviewers expect you to maintain a formal tone.  Even if the recruiter is informal and uses casual language such as, “hey” and “yeah,” it is important to remain professional.  You should not confuse a casual environment for an excuse to use casual language.  You are still being evaluated.  In one particular case, I worked with an asset management company that decided to pass on a candidate with a strong resume because he was informal and used phrases such as “yeah man.”

Additionally, some candidates will allude to having other job opportunities on the table.  Keep in mind that there is a fine line between displaying a competitive advantage and arrogance.  It is important to be truthful when asked if you are interviewing with other firms, but do not lead with this assertion in your follow-up and do not make it a major talking point in your message.  I worked with an investment management firm deciding between two candidates.  In his follow-up, the leading candidate over-emphasized his competitiveness and caused concern that if an offer was made to him, he would not accept.  In the end, the other candidate received the offer.

Finally, I want to address the common inquiry of sending an e-mail follow-up versus sending a traditional letter through the mail.  An e-mail is expected and allows you to remain prompt in your follow-up.  Follow this with a hand written note only if you have a personal relationship with the interviewer.  Otherwise it could be deemed excessive.  If you do not receive a response to this message within two weeks, it is acceptable to send one additional follow-up note.

In conclusion, it’s vital to remember that the recruiting process is not over when the interview is.  Candidates who continue to maintain a high level of professionalism all the way through the process often see the best results.


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