Thank-you letter quiz



A well-crafted thank-you note following a successful job interview could be the tipping point that pushes you into the job candidate finalist category.

“The thank-you note remains one of the most overlooked marketing tools of the job search,” said Stephanie Daniel, vice president and group program manager at Keystone Associates, a career-management and transition services consultancy.

A poorly crafted thank you can do the opposite, pushing your candidacy, following a strong interview, from potential candidate to a final landing in the trash can.

We gathered input from hiring managers and professional resume writers to craft this quiz. Before sending a thank-you letter, run it through this ringer to make sure it’s working for you and not against you.

Q: How is your Thank-you letter addressed?

    A. Dear Mr./Ms. Lastname, or Dear Firstname, only if the interviewer has invited you to address him/her as such.
    B. Dear Firstname,
    C. Dear Misspelled Firstname,

Job candidates sometimes misread social cues, said Anne Howard, a recruiter with executive recruiting firm Lynn Hazan & Associates. One candidate addressed her thank-you note to a CEO’s first name. The CEO was at least 25 years her senior, and the company was “very traditional,” Howard said. Use someone’s first name only if you were invited to do so.

That’s not as bad as misspelling a name, however. Hatti L. Hamlin, an independent PR practitioner and consultant, has an unusual name that is most often spelled with an \”e.\” She doesn’t spell it that way and notes that it “irritates me no end when people to whom I\’ve given my business card don\’t pay attention to how my name is spelled.”

Q: What does your Thank-you letter include?

    A. Refers to something the interviewer said that you found interesting and informative.
    B. The standard: \”Thank you for meeting with me today. I appreciate your time and look forward to working with you in the future.\”
    C. Typos or bad grammar.

Answer A will make the interviewer “feel like I didn\’t waste my valuable time meeting with you,” Hamlin said.

If you can\’t muster up anything more specific to say about the interview or the job than a cut-and-paste “Thank you” like answer “B,” you demonstrate that “You\’re not that interested in it,” Howard said.

The worst is bad usage, such as \”to\” when \”too\” is correct, or verbs and subjects that don\’t agree. “If typos, misspelled words and poor grammar are the best she can do, she certainly won\’t get my help or recommendation,” Hamlin said.

Q: Format/Timing?

    A. Promptly sent via e-mail.
    B. Promptly sent on good card stock.
    C. Sent when you eventually remembered, on some awesome green stationery that’s sure to get their attention.

Thank-you letters should be sent as soon as possible after the interview. E-mail is widely approved of. Some hiring pros say they are actually a bit “creeped out” by paper cards, while some prefer them over e-mail. Generally speaking, older, more traditional workplaces are likely to look more favorably on paper, so use your own discretion.

Q: The letter…

    A. is a sincere thanks for the time the interviewer spent with you.
    B. unsubtly reiterates why the interviewer should hire you.
    C. gives the interviewer a deadline to respond, implying that you’re in high demand.

Gregory Lay, a trainer with Heartily Working Adult Education, reviewed one letter from a gentleman who wrote, “I’ve got several offers I’m weighing for my services, so for you to be in the game, I’ll need to have a firm offer no later than next Friday.” Lay stapled the letter to the candidate’s application and “immediately moved [it] to the ‛Don’t bother to respond’ pile,” he said.

Q: The letter…

    A. explains why you’re interested in proceeding to a second meeting.
    B. uses terminology that doesn’t fit your persona and/or uses text copied from the Internet.
    C. outlines medical concerns and/or gets overly personal.

Drew Stevens, a training and talent management expert, worked with one person who received a thank you she swore she’d seen before. Sure enough, she “found the entire thank you [was taken] from an Internet template,” Stevens said.

One handwritten note Lay received came from a woman who showed up for the interview wearing blue jeans with large rips. She wrote, “I noticed that you apreciated (sic) my legs. I’m quite proud of them, and if you hire me, you’ll get to see them every day.”

Neither her legs nor anything attached were offered a job.


Give yourself two points for all A’s, one point for B’s and zero points for C’s.

10 Congratulations — you’re reading social cues correctly and customizing your thank-you letters to reflect what transpired in the interview.

5–10 Your thank-you letters are a bit rote. Try to make sure they don’t sound like form letters.

0–5 Try to do better. Your thank-you letters, along with your applications, are likely spending a good deal of time together in circular files.