Does sending a thank you note after a job interview make you stand out? Recruitment experts weigh in

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Recruitment experts Motsei Masilo and Siwe Sibeko share their thoughts on whether a thank you note is a good idea and what they think needs to be included in it.
Recruitment experts Motsei Masilo and Siwe Sibeko share their thoughts on whether a thank you note is a good idea and what they think needs to be included in it.

Today’s employers say it is an absolute must-do.

This is according to recruiters polled for an article published in Fast Company which extolls the virtues of sending a thank you note after a job interview.

“It’s not just good manners,” former editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan Kate White, told the US business magazine. 

“The interviewer is judging your passion for the job based on whether you send a note and what you say in it.”

Many LinkedIn users soon weighed in on the advice shared, questioning whether a thank you email after an interview makes a great impression.

Drum spoke to two Johannesburg-based recruitment experts to hear their thoughts on this debate.

“I think it is a great idea to send a thank you note after an interview,” says Siwe Sibeko, an employee experience enthusiast and change manager.

Siwe Sibeko says sending a thank you note that's unique and reflective after a job interview is a good idea.

“A thank you note gives the impression that you are really keen on the opportunity and that you know that there are many applicants in the process, but you’re really grateful that you were afforded an opportunity,” says the HR Consultant at Shell.

“It conveys the message that you don’t take the interview opportunity for granted, which could subconsciously convey the message that – if given the job, you will treat it as seriously.”

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The timing of the letter also matters, advises Siwe. 

“It is important to send the note within 24 hours of the interview, while you’re still fresh in everyone’s minds.”

“If the interview was okay and there was nothing exceptional or exciting to write on the thank you note, then there is no need to send one,” says HR and labour expert Motsei Masilo.

While it's not a must, a thank you note after a 'bad' interview could help do damage control, says Motsei Masilo.

“A thank you note will not get a candidate a job if the candidate did not do well in an interview,” she adds, although she does think there are scenarios where the gesture might be a great idea.

“If two candidates are equally good on CV and do equally well in an interview, a thank you note might help the one candidate to stand out or be memorable as compared to the other who did not send a thank you note,” says the businesswoman and doctoral student.

Motsei shares two more scenarios where a thank you note might set you apart.

“If the company is interested in a candidate, but they think the candidate is not interested in joining them because they were not necessarily looking for a job – if a candidate is headhunted – a thank you note helps the company to know that they have created a good impression and that the candidate is interested in the position.

“If a candidate is a graduate with an excellent academic record, but they were too nervous in the interview, or they could not express themselves because they are not fluent in English, then a well-written thank you note can help the recruiter and the manager be lenient."

 “It is possible that the company can overlook the fact that a candidate could not express themselves in an interview. The company could then even consider giving the candidate a 12-months contract to test them out. It’s rare, but it’s possible.”

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What to include in the note is important as it may be your last chance to make a good impression on the people who interviewed you. 

“There is nothing worse than having an amazing conversation with a candidate, only to receive the thank you note equivalent of a limp handshake,” former Ziprecruiter CMO Allan Jones told Fast Company.

Siwe and Motsei agree and advise job-seekers who have been shortlisted as candidates to keep their notes short, simple and impactful.

These are Motsei’s important points to include in the note:

1. Thank the company for inviting you (as the candidate) to the interview;

2. Mention what you liked about the company (be specific, honest, and sincere);

3. State what you liked about the interaction (mention specific people who impressed you and why);

4. What did you learn about the company that you did not know before?

Siwe shares what she considers important points to include in a thank you note

Firstly, always begin by briefly saying why this opportunity matters to you.

For example: “I have always wanted to work at XYZ company, since my favourite uncle worked there when I was a child, so to be granted an opportunity to come there for a job interview was definitely a dream come true.” 

Or, “I am so grateful for the opportunity to be invited for an interview at XYZ company. I am extremely passionate about the work that you do and would be delighted to learn and add value to a brand which has come to mean so much to South African youth.”

Secondly, the best notes are those with a personal touch.

Think about some things you learnt about the company or interviewers and include that in your note.

For example: “I was really excited to learn that John and I go to the same Toastmasters’ Club.” Or, “It really excites me that XYZ company is also a top employer.” 

Remember that you may not be the only person sending them a thank you note, and some candidates are doing a copy-and-paste exercise from the internet. Think about how to stand out.

Lastly, make it concise and ensure that it achieves what it set out to.

Be brief and to the point. Express your eagerness and excitement about the organisation and your prospect of joining them. But don’t ramble on until you mess up whatever good impression you may have made during the interview. 

Make sure that it does say “thank you” even if not using those exact words.

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