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After interview, send thank you letter

Most people — from big cheeses to small fry — forget to send thank you letters to the people who interview them for jobs. Talk about a missed opportunity! • It's amazing how much this seemingly small step can leave such a huge, memorable and positive impression. And in a job market like this one, who couldn't use a little help standing out from the pack? The following tips can help you craft a thank you note that really sings.

1 Don't dally. Experts in this area recommend sending out your note of thanks within 24 hours of your interview, or within two to three days tops. The idea here is to make a stellar impression while you're still fresh in people's minds, not when you're starting to become a fading memory.

2 Reach out to everyone you met. Be sure to thank all the people who took time out of their busy schedules to sit down with you. Much of the wording in each thank you letter can be the same, but look for ways to personalize each one by mentioning something specific that came up during your meeting. Definitely spell each person's name correctly and get their titles right. (Getting business cards from people will help!) If you've met with a recruiter rather than run the gauntlet at a certain place of employment, remember to thank the recruiter in writing.

3 Type, write longhand or go digital? To some extent this will require a gut check on your part, depending on the circumstances of the interview. If you know speed is of the essence because the employer needs to move quickly on this hire, opt for e-mail, or drop your thank you letters off in person the next day. If your handwriting is sloppy, absolutely type your note so it will look neat. If you sense that a handwritten note would be a nice touch, then a handwritten note in an attractive note card may be the best route.

4 Be sincere, and be yourself. You can find an abundance of sample thank you letters online, and that's great if it helps you. (Here's one good place to check out for samples: www.quintcareers.com/sample_thank-you_letters.html) No matter what, though, make a real effort to write in your own words and sound like YOU. Share genuine appreciation for each person's time and for the opportunity to learn more about the company and the opportunity.

5 Don't make your letter too long. Thank you letters of this nature should be fairly concise. If typed, it should be no longer than one page, with about four short paragraphs altogether. You could follow that same overall format if you compose a handwritten card, but just make sure the inside of the card looks neat and not too crowded.

6 Remain positive and enthusiastic. Spell out how interested you are in working there, and specify how your skills and experience are an ideal fit for the position. Zero in on details the interviewer described as important in a job candidate. This is bound to impress the person on the receiving end of your thank you letter because it will be clear you understand what he or she needs.

7 Fix any flub-ups that may have happened. Countless interviews leave job candidates kicking themselves because they didn't handle a question or situation in just the right way. A thank you letter is the perfect antidote for this because it gives you another opportunity to say precisely what you meant to say. Without dwelling on anything awkward or negative, take the opportunity to stress your strengths or minimize any weaknesses as needed.

8 Add any selling points that you failed to mention. In the stress of the job-interview scenario, you may not have said anything wrong, but you may have completely forgotten to mention an important detail about yourself or your background that truly does make you a good fit for the position. If that happened, casually stick that detail into your thank you note.

9 Close with class. End your thank you letter with a friendly, short paragraph thanking the individual once again for his or her time and emphasizing your strong interest in the job. If necessary, look to sample thank you letters for inspiration.

10 Be nitpicky when proofreading. Everything about your letter — spelling, punctuation, grammar, names, titles, addresses, spacing, font — must be just right. If some of these areas aren't your strengths, ask a trusted friend or colleague to read it over for you. If you must fly solo on this one, try the time-tested trick of printing or writing out your note and reading it out loud so you can hear how it flows.

Laura T. Coffey can be reached at laura@tentips.com.

Sources: Quintessential Careers (www.quintcareers.com); USA Today (www.usatoday.com/money/jobcenter/)

After interview, send thank you letter 10/31/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 3, 2009 2:51pm]

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