Office Hours: Anatomy of a Perfect Thank You Note

This post has been updated and now appears in Office Hours


You scoured all of the job posting sites for just the right role, perfectly tailored your resume to the needs of the job, and included only the most compelling examples of your professional prowess in your cover letter.

All your hard work paid off! You got an interview, answered the hiring manager’s questions thoughtfully, and even had some great questions of your own to ask. You knocked it out of the park!

All that’s left is to sit back and wait for a job offer right? Wrong!

Now’s the time to seal the deal with a thoughtful thank you note that reconfirms not only how much you want the job but also why you are the best fit.

Length Check

If you think “my interviewer is busy and doesn’t have time to read a long note. They just want to see that I wrote a quick ‘thanks,’” you’re wrong.

Think you should pour your heart out with a long, sincere, compelling note? Wrong again. It might come across as thoughtful but it won’t be effective.

Instead you want to aim for the Goldilocks zone. Not too short, not too long. Just right. Generally speaking, that’s about 250 words.

Yes, it’s possible to express gratitude, affirm that you are right for the job, and establish a personal connection — all in less than 250 words.

Now let’s get into exactly how to construct the perfect thank you note piece by piece.

Element #1: The Salutation

Let’s take it from the top. Opening up the note is the easy part: just “Dear [Interviewer Name]” is always a safe bet. Switch “Hi” for “Dear” if your previous correspondence and conversations have been more casual.

From there, a standard, “Thank you for [speaking/meeting] with me on [day of interview]. I appreciated the opportunity to discuss my potential fit as the [position you interviewed for], and it was great to learn about [company name] more broadly as well,” will do the trick.

Element #2: The Proclamation

Next, remind your interviewer that you really, really want this job. Express your excitement, and be sure that you provide an explanation that’s (at least somewhat) unique to you. For example:

“So many aspects of both the company and the position resonate with me; I’m excited by [something about the company], which couldn’t be more aligned with my [passion or interest], and by the opportunity to [one of the cooler job responsibilities or a summary of the purpose of the role].”

As you may have noticed, you’re not actually going to spend much time in this note thanking your interviewer. Plus, by now you’re already more than a third of the way to your 250-word goal. Don’t waste what’s left of your note fawning over your interviewer. It’s time to offer a little reminder of just how awesome you are.

Element #3: The Clincher

This is the most important part. Here, you have the opportunity to supercharge your interviewer’s impressions of you, course-correcting anything that didn’t go perfectly in your conversation, and reiterating a succinct, compelling argument for why you should be the next addition to their team.

If you got a sense of potential sources of concern about your candidacy, address them head on–but keep it positive. Let’s say you’re a recent grad applying for a job that requires 2 years of full-time work experience, and your interviewer expressed doubt that you had the professional savvy necessary to succeed. This part might read:

Each year since I entered college has afforded me the chance to learn and grow as a professional. From joining the lacrosse team as its youngest manager ever as a freshman and managing a group of 10 counselors as Assistant Director at my camp, to defending my thesis in front of a committee of university faculty and closing $16,000 in orders in my first foray into sales at a startup this summer, I’ve proven that I have the maturity and savvy to be a leader and effective team member– especially when I interact with more experienced individuals or am faced with a new challenge.

Because your explanation addressed a weakness without naming it explicitly (i.e. didn’t lead with, “If you’re worried I don’t have enough experience…”), you have now countered a possible argument against you without reminding your interviewer of where you fall short. Nice work! And now, all that’s left is to tie it up in a pretty bow.

Element #4: The Closing

You set out to write a note that expresses gratitude (check!), affirms that you are right for the job (check!), and establishes a personal connection. You’ve handled the first two like a champ, and — hey, it is a thank you note after all, so might as well reiterate your thanks before ending on a friendly, familiar (but still professional) note.

Again, I’m grateful for your time and consideration. Your approach to the interview and perspective on what makes a successful [role you’re interviewing for] were illuminating, and I hope to continue the conversation soon.

Enjoy [something that your interviewer mentioned is coming up for him/her personally or professionally]. Hope you [something about the aforementioned thing going well]!

Thank you,

[Your name]

Know When to Hit Send

Although we’ve been calling it a thank you “note,” it’s actually a thank you email. While some old school interviewing guides will recommend sending a handwritten note, the reality is that most hiring managers are looking to make decisions quickly, especially at a startup. In the time it takes for the postal service to deliver your note, your interviewer may have already written you off and moved onto another candidate.

Send them an email instead. You should have the address from when you scheduled the interview or from their business card when you met. If you don’t have it, be resourceful in getting it—either google, guess or call to ask.

Aim to send your thank you note within 24–48 hours of the interview. If you send it too soon, it’ll come across as canned and inauthentic. Too late and again you risk them moving on. A day or two after the interview lets your message hit their inbox in exactly the right time.

Voila! You’ve now written and sent the perfect thank you note. Of course, a thank you note is nothing if not preceded by a strong interview, but it can be just the extra push you need to go from interviewee to employee.

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