Thank You Notes & References: DOs and DON’Ts

Over the past 20 years, we have witnessed many candidates who were close to receiving an offer and lost the opportunity because of their thank you notes and/or references.  Some of this may be common sense, but here are some Dos and Don’ts you should consider when actively engaged in a job search:

  1. DO send a thank you note, but DON’T send it from your iPhone/PDA.  It is best to write the note on your desktop computer, where you can proof the note carefully. If you have the time and inclination, you can send a handwritten thank you note.  One Firm told me how impressed they were when the candidate hand-delivered thank you notes before work the following morning and left them with the receptionist.  Another employer said that they liked the mixture of personal and expedient, when a candidate wrote a thank you note and then sent a PDF of the handwritten note in an email.
  2. DO send each person you met with a different thank you note. Many interviewers have told me that they share the emails received from candidates and are turned off when each thank you note received is identical.  This is an opportunity to distinguish yourself and say something specific that resonated from your meeting with each interviewer.
  3. DON’T send your thank you note as soon as your return to your office.  Your potential employer will be concerned that instead of working at your job, you are using work time to send personal thank you notes.
  4. DON’T send the note using your work email address. Using Firm property for personal usage reflects poorly on your judgment and this may not help you land the job.
  5. DO ask people you have worked with if they will be a reference for you.  DON’T assume that they will be ok with a reference call without telling them first.  We once had an offer fall apart, because the candidate assumed that the CMO would give them a good reference, but the CMO did not.
  6. DO prepare your references prior to the call, by providing them with a job description or emailing them information, so they know what kind of job you’re interviewing for.  The more “in the loop” they feel, the more likely they are to be helpful to you.
  7. DO keep your references informed as to what happens. Even if you do not get or accept the position, thank them for their time, as this will make them want to be helpful in the future.

Each example above illustrates something we have seen candidates DO or NOT DO, which resulted in them not getting the job they wanted.  I would like to believe that some of these errors occurred because the candidate wants to react as quickly as possible, and does not always think through how their behavior will be received.  When it comes to the impression you make during an interview process, or the reputation you leave with past employers, it is probably best to slow down and really think through what you are trying to accomplish.

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