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Job Search - Should You Send an Email Thank You Letter?

by Kathy Sweeney, NCRW, CPRW, CEIC, CCM

The average job search lasts between 12 weeks to 6 months. During that time, a job seeker will send out many resumes and make multiple contacts in search of new employment.

Today, that search extends into the world of technology through online posting of résumés, corporate employment pages, online employment sites, and email. While the media is changing, the process and etiquette of a job search are not.

The old saying that the "squeaky wheel gets the grease" is reversing- the world is so full of squeaky wheels, that the wheel who runs smoothly and correctly is the one that gets the attention.

The person who is polite and follows business protocols correctly gets noticed. In a job search, the person who goes the extra mile to follow up interviews with a thank-you note will win points in the selection process.

In this article, I will cover the pros and cons of sending an email thank you letter.

Traditionally, thank you notes were handwritten on nice stationery. And, while it still can be effective (and I generally recommend it - see this article), there is an alternative.

In today's world, with technology being what it is, job seekers are finding that sending email thank-you notes has some advantages.

First, email is easy and therefore more likely to be sent than a handwritten or typed letter. Second, email is faster than snail mail. A busy executive who comes in after a long day of interviewing and finds an email message from someone he interviewed that day is going to be impressed and will appreciate the enthusiasm it shows. The busy executive will also appreciate the efficiency of an email thank you.

On a deeper level, use of email for thank-you-for-the-interview-letters may have some subliminal advantages. Email is usually intranet-based and in most organizations it is in-house. An email may quietly suggest that the job candidate is already "inside" and part of the organization.

Additionally, email says "technically able" to the decision-maker. Someone who uses email can obviously operate in a computer environment. Finally, email thank you letters are still rare and will therefore stand out in the crowd. An executive interviews twenty candidates, receives eight traditional thank-you letters and one email thank-you. Who is going to be remembered?

While it sounds good, email as a mode of follow up has its downsides, too. For one thing, old standards die hard and many hiring managers are traditionalists. Conservatism still reigns in the world of job search and email may not always find a warm welcome, especially in the more conservative fields.

Traditionalists may look down upon sending an email "thank you letter," making it a moot option. While common in the more liberal field of technology, email as a mode of follow up may not be favored in the ultra-conservative field of finance.

Further, many businesses are receiving so many communications via email, that your letter may get deleted.

The advantage of ease of email may also serve as a disadvantage. Many hiring managers may consider it "too easy" and that it does not show effort on the part of the job seeker to send a thank you via email.

Also, email is a familiar form of communication rather than formal. Generally, in email usage, first names are used and business letter format goes out the window. This format is contrary to the purpose of a thank-you letter, a formal communication.

If email is to be used for follow-up communication after an interview, follow some basic guidelines:

1. Be sure it will be well received. Consider the conservatism of the field and the nature of the interview when deciding to use email. Also, make sure the interviewer does not mind being contacted via email.

2. Format the thank you just as you would a traditional thank you letter. Use business letter standards, formal salutation, and formal language.

3. Do not overuse email in the follow up. Be careful not to become just another spammer to the interviewer.

4. Cover your bases by sending a traditional thank you letter on fine stationery, in addition to the email. Email is fast, but it is not tactile. Just like snail mail, it may get lost, get deleted unread, or be victim of some other snafu. Send both to be safe.

Whether traditional or email, the thank-you-for-the-interview letter is a vital step in the job search process. Job seekers who leave out this step label themselves as haphazard, less-than-detail-oriented, non-enthusiastic, and unconcerned with business protocols. Sure, its a little extra work in an already time-consuming process, but it is worth it! Show some enthusiasm and send that thank you!

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