How-To: Write Post-Interview Thank-You

Lily Whiteman, author of How to Land a Top-Paying Federal Job and Federal Times Columnist

Question: What is the first thing you should do after you get home from a job interview (after you rip off your uncomfortable interview outfit but before you pour yourself a stiff, cold drink)?

Answer: Write a thank-you letter to your interviewer(s).

If you’re like most job applicants, you resent the mere suggestion that you should thank your interviewer(s) who, so far, hasn’t even done anything for you. Indeed, you probably think that your interviewer(s) should thank you for putting on an interview outfit that you otherwise wouldn’t want to be caught dead in, trucking down to his office, and perhaps even graciously inventorying your weaknesses during your interview. But, fair or not, your fate hinges on your interviewer(s) opinion of you, which may be improved by a thank-you letter because:

* Very few applicants bother to write thank-you letters. Therefore, your letter will help you stand out from the thankless masses.

* Your thank-you letter will brandish your fire-in-the-belly, manners, conscientiousness and dedication to follow-through — all prized traits.

* Your thank-you letter will remind your interviewer(s) of your strengths. As one hiring manager said, “If a letter is right in front of me, it is a tangible nudge that forces me to think about the applicant again — perhaps long after the interview has ended and the interviewee has left my office.” This is important because a busy interviewer who screens many applicants may quickly forget even outstanding applicants, particularly those that were interviewed early in the process.


Your thank-you letter should be zippy and brief — not longer than several paragraphs, and certainly not longer than one page. It should be customized to your target job by doing the following:

* Thanking your interviewer for his time and trouble.

* Reaffirming your interest in your target job, and incorporating information you gathered during the interview, and succinctly explaining why your target job appeals to you.

* Concisely summarizing what you offer your target organization.

* Adding any important information that you neglected to mention during the interview.

* Being error-free: spell-check and proof your thank-you letter so that it doesn’t dam you, and then get a second opinion on it from a trusted advisor.


If you’re interviewed by more than one interviewer, send a thank-you letter to each of them. Why? Because you can’t trust your interviewers to take the time and trouble to pass around a single thank-you letter among themselves. And because each of your interviewers probably has the power to make or break your case, you should use every opportunity to impress each of them.

If possible, tailor each thank-you letter to each interviewer by referring to something he said or something that is apparently important to him. But if doing so is impossible, remember that it is way wiser to send the same thank-you letter to each of your interviewers than to refrain from sending thank-you letters to all of them.


A thank-you letter sent by overnight delivery will make a stronger impression than a dime-a-dozen thank-you e-mail that would probably be quickly read, deleted and forgotten. After all, don’t you notice letters that you receive via overnight delivery more than the gazillions of emails that crowd into your in-box every day?

But speed counts: your thank-you letter should arrive before your interviewer(s) makes a decision about you. So if your target agency’s snail mail is delayed by security screens, personally drop off your thank-you letter the day after your interview, if possible.

Alternatively, if you have no other options, email your thank-you letter immediately after your interview. (But as one hiring manager pointed out, “E-mails are just one step above doing nothing.”)


I have heard of many instances where thank-you letters sealed the deal for applicants. I even know of one case where the interviewer had entirely forgotten about the need to fill the opening on his staff until he received a thank-you letter from one of his interviewees — who was rewarded for his “tangible nudge” by being hired into the opening.

Lily’s website — http://www.IGotTheJob.Net — is loaded with more free advice on federal careers.

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