As a child, I loved Christmas. It wasn’t about all the wrapping paper and ribbons and new gifts strewn about the floor. But it was that glorious moment when my mom and I gathered and handpicked beautiful thank you cards from her stationary cabinet. Ok, I know I’m a little abnormal, but I truly loved the joy I got from drawing her fancy pen across the page, thanking my grand-mum/aunt/uncle/fifth-cousin-once-removed for the thoughtful present. I loved closing the envelope, pressing the stamp down in the upper right hand corner, and dropping it into the chasms of the street-side mailbox.
Little did I know my strange obsession with saying thanks would help me all the way through business school. Some people might think sending a thank you is old fashioned, but in a day of constant emails, online chat windows, and post-it note memos stuck to computer screens, people truly appreciate the thought that goes into a hand-written thank you card. I know, three of my interviewers called me back personally to thank me for the thoughtful cards. (All three also offered me internships!)
So plan ahead. When you head to an interview, get a nice professional thank you card ready. Interviewer name and address are easy enough (even pre-stamp so you can drop in in the mail right after you write it). Now pay attention in the interview to the person you’re talking with. This will help you write a more sincere thank you. And it is similar to thanking someone for a gift at the holidays. The gift they are giving you is their time and the opportunity to be considered for the job/internship you are interviewing for. Follow these five easy steps to a sincere, thoughtful thank you card:
1. Thank the person for the gift. In the case of a post-interview thank you card, thank them for their time and consideration.
2. Describe what you will use the gift for a why you are especially grateful for it. Here, mention a couple of characteristics you discussed about the job and emphasize or repeat why you are an especially good fit for the position. This can be a key moment to bring up a small point you feel you didn’t hit home. (It is too late to bring up big points you missed… the interview is over.)
3. Make a reference to a recent or upcoming event in the person’s life. Did you talk about his/her daughter recently applying to colleges? Did you discuss of hand his/her upcoming trip to Belize? Mention it and wish him/her well! This shows you listened to them even when it wasn’t all business details.
4. Mention something positive that is going on in your life. Whether you are excited for graduation in June 2014 or thinking of heading up to Lake Tahoe for the weekend, share something about yourself that is relatable and likable. Remember: people want to work with people they like.
5. Thanking the person again and telling them you hope to see them soon. Finish with a final thank you and reference next steps or hearing from them soon. This can help speed up an agreed upon time table or help keep you at the front of their minds when making final decisions.
Obviously, even the most expensive Hallmark card on the shelf is not going to secure the job (especially if you did not prepare for the interview), but it can tilt the scales in your favor. Again, remember people want to work with someone they like – but in light of the pile of 150+ resumes of eager, likable people sitting on their desk – they also want to hire someone they can remember, someone that stands out. So go ahead, give it a try. Give yourself a fighting chance, donate 35 cents to the good ol’ U.S. Postal Service, and send a thank you card!
(Also, sending a thank you at the end of an internship can put you in good graces with your boss and possibly translate into a job!)