Should You Expect a Thank You Note After the Interview?
Last April, Jessica Liebman, the Executive Managing Editor of Insider Inc., had the sheer audacity to suggest in a Business Insider article that she has a simple rule when she is hiring. “We shouldn’t move a candidate to the next stage in the interview process unless they send a thank-you email.” Liebman went on to state that bringing someone into your company is always risky. However, a thank you email (not snail mail – too slow) signals a candidate’s motivation and desire for the position and generally means they’re a “good egg.” There are only so many data points one can collect in an interview, she reasoned, that sometimes the thank-you note will make the difference in the selection of candidates.
She further clarified and stated, “To be clear, a thank-you note does not ensure someone will be a successful hire. But using the thank-you email as a barrier to entry has proved beneficial, at least at my company.” So it makes sense, right?
Unfortunately, it is 2019, and social media and the Twitter-verse went into hyperdrive to condemn her and her statements. Other hiring managers, reputable organizations (SHRM and LinkedIn), and publications joined the fray, with several siding in large part with those who disagreed. It got so bad, Liebman followed up with another article cheekily titled, “Thank you for reading my story about thank-you notes!” a few days later to clarify what she meant. Many people were seemingly offended that anyone would actually “require” sending a thank you note after an interview. She went on to explain she was trying to be helpful and shed some light and that, “The biggest factors we consider are a candidate’s talent and fit for the role.” It was a “rule of thumb” and not official company policy.
What were the disagreements and the outrage with Jessica Liebman’s piece on sending thank you notes? Thank you notes are antiquated and pointless [apparently not to her and the many hiring managers and business leaders we talk to daily here at BEST]. Thank you notes are to stroke the ego of the interviewer. Seriously? The application and job description said nothing about sending a thank you. Liebman’s response was priceless on this point, “Neither is being on time to the interview.”
Our favorite? Expecting a thank-you note is elitist and shows discrimination and bias because many people have never been taught this skill. Diversity is critical to any organization today. Different perspectives can lead to increased creativity, innovation, productivity, better decision-making, and a better work environment and culture, among many other benefits. However, we have never seen it be used as an excuse not to be courteous and to say thank you. Laziness would be a better excuse. After all, especially in a customer-facing role, would you want anyone on your team that doesn’t know how to say thank you?
But it’s a candidate’s market. They [interviewer] should be sending the candidate a thank you. Liebman conceded this point somewhat in that all companies need to do a better job notifying candidates and letting them know why they did not get the position. Point well taken, and it is also something we strive for at BEST.
A lot of the outrage on this could be the times we live in – where being contrary on social media is expected and merely aiming for “likes” and that all-important re-tweet. Indeed, social media can help us all whittle down the candidate pool. However, at BEST, we can only speak to our own experience working with clients and candidates and heartily thank those who disagree (because it is indeed helpful).
As business leaders, hiring managers, and recruiters, it is often about overcoming buyer’s remorse. When a hiring manager or company leader is getting ready to make a hiring decision, they want that one thing that can put a candidate over the edge and calm their fears about making a bad hire. In talking with a client last month, he mentioned that he really liked the candidate, but he had not yet seen a thank you email. The next day he did without our prompting, and the job offer went out shortly after that. To the client, it was expected as well as another box to check.
For the candidates we work with, our resources stress the importance of the thank you email. A candidate should always ask for the interviewer’s email address during the interview (whether on the phone or in person). Rarely, if ever, has it been questioned. After all, it is another opportunity to sell yourself to the prospective company. It doesn’t have to be a long note— say thank you, say that you want the position, and use it also to state why you are the best fit for the role (one or two reasons you are the best candidate for the job or maybe there was something you missed during the interview) and would welcome further discussion. Then, send it within 24-hours while you are still fresh in the interviewer’s mind. Where is the controversy in that?
When we were hiring an intern at BEST last year, we had three strong candidates, all with equal skills, talent, and fit for the role. The deciding factor? One candidate went over and above and sent us all a personalized thank you email. He was hired and then became a permanent fixture on our team and has been very successful to date and has a bright future. The difference? His thank-you email.
As record low unemployment continues and less skilled workers are available for more increasingly skilled open positions, there are already hiring and employment trends that would have been unthinkable just five years ago. So, as we enter the holiday season, a time for giving thanks and reflection, here is hoping the time-honored thank you note is not one of them.
Thank you for reading, and thank you, Jessica!