Thank You Notes: Perfect Closer, or Opening for Pitfalls?

Choices, choices, choices.  Whenever you are interviewing for a new job, you are confronted with many, many choices.  You may not even consciously realize it, but during a job search you are constantly making calculated choices from the kinds of achievements you decide to highlight in your cover letter, to the clothes you decide to wear on interview day.  Some choices may not be as significant as others, but every choice paints a picture of who you are as a candidate in the eyes of potential employers.

One of the biggest choices that you need to make during the interview process is, if we can borrow a bit from the Bard, is “to thank, or not to thank.”  Yes, one of the questions we consistently get from our candidates is whether it is a good idea to send a thank you note after an interview. With a few caveats, we believe that it is a best practice to send a thank you note after you interview.

In this article, we will discuss the pros and cons of sending thank you notes. Of course, if you have additional questions about your particular circumstances after reading this article, we invite you to contact Princeton Legal Search Group to get some thoughts from one of our experienced legal recruiting professionals.  We are here to help you succeed.

The Case for Writing Thank You Notes Following an Interview

There is a strong case to be made for writing thank you notes after an interview.  So, in true courtroom fashion, let us “call this case to order” and hear the evidence of why a thank you note after an interview might be a good idea.

  1. Confirming Your Interest in the Firm or Company

It is common for someone to leave an interview much more excited about the firm or company than when they started.  Indeed, after you have interviewed with a number of interviewers, learned more about the organization, and gotten a feel for the workplace culture, you will likely be much more eager to want to get on board.

If that is the case, then it is perfectly natural to want to express your excitement after the interview is over.  A thank you note would be the perfect vehicle to do so.  In fact, if you are the type of person who is typically against thank you notes, or is on the fence, you may want to only send a thank you note when you really feel like a particular organization is the one for you.

  1. Demonstrating That You are a Class Act

Sometimes it is just nice to say “thank you” when you can.  Generally saying “thank you” on a consistent basis to show appreciation goes a long way in life.  Do you thank your local coffee shop barista for doing all the work to craft your favorite large-half-decaf-flat-white-with-whipped-cream-and-a-touch-of-cinnamon-on-top?  Of course you do.  Well, firms and corporations typically put considerable time into ensuring that you have a smooth, enjoyable interview experience.  That is certainly worth an appreciative “thank you,” and a quick note shows that you take the time to remember the small things.  That’s class.

  1. Gives You One More Chance to Restate Your Case and Reaffirm a Connection

A thank you note is also one more touch, one more reminder, that you are a great candidate who has a lot to offer.  It provides a valid reason to reach out and reiterate the achievements or qualities that you know the organization is seeking. A thank you note also gives you an opportunity to acknowledge a connection or a shared interest with your interviewer. For example, you might mention that you enjoyed discussing a new technology that lawyers are using or a recent court decision or even a shared love of music or golf. A thank you note might be that one additional step that helps you stand out from the crowd.

The Case Against the Thank You Note

Having heard arguments from the “pro thank you note” side, let us now take a close look at the arguments against writing thank you notes after a job interview.

  1. Oh, All the Typos You’ll Make . . .

First and foremost, the thank you note is fertile ground for messing up an otherwise strong interview.  While the idea of a thank you note is noble and classy, the execution could really hurt your chances with a potential employer.  And the reason for that it because you can so easily make a mistake.

The list of possible errors you can make in a thank you note is endless.  Of course, the thank you note could have a typo – always bad form.  The note could have a grammatical error, which as we all know is a “no-no” for lawyers.  You might make a simple mistake with the firm or company’s name, or the spelling of the name of someone with whom you interviewed.

Moreover, even if your thank you note is letter perfect, you still may run into problems.  If you handwrite your note, someone might find your handwriting too sloppy, too illegible, too . . . whatever.  An employer might take issue with the stationery you use.  And, emailing a thank you note might come off as too informal.

In sum, there are a lot of reasons why a thank you note could end up severely hurting, rather than helping, your chances at the job.

  1. A Thank You Note Could be Viewed as Lacking Sincerity

We all know that it is a bit harder to convey emotion through writing than it is in person.  It is not an understatement to say that the entire world of “emojis” was created to ensure that the intention behind a text message is clear.  That is because non-verbal communication is very important to any interpersonal interaction, and a plain text message can be interpreted in many ways.

The same principle is true with thank you notes.  When writing a thank you note – a text message of sorts – you might be genuine when you say “my interview with you confirmed my belief that this is where I really want to continue my career.”  Yet, that turn of phrase is rather common, and it can be construed as cliché or disingenuous to the reader, particularly when the reader has interviewed many people and has seen that phrase before.

Conclusion:  The Verdict on Thank You Notes

As you can see from all of the above, “to thank or not to thank” is something that deserves your consideration. In general, we believe that thank you notes are a good idea. The vast majority of candidates send email thank you notes and you may stand out for the wrong reasons if you don’t send a thank you note. A good thank you note requires thoughtfulness, reflection and a further investment of your time. We recommend finding a quiet place to craft your thank you notes and having a friend or family member read them. As noted in this article, there is of course the risk of making an error in grammar, spelling or tone, particularly if you are rushed or stressing under work deadlines. If that is the case and if you otherwise had a good interview and graciously thanked your interviewers at the time of the interview, you might lean towards not sending a thank you.

Remember – when interviewing, make good choices.