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The Most Overlooked Job-Hunting Strategy

April 5th, 2007 at 06:42 am

You've spent hours preparing for the interview, you even had your answer to that trick question "What are your weaknesses?" memorized, and now you've made it through the grueling interview day where you sat through 6 face to face interviews with a bunch of execs and managers asking you to repeatedly talk about yourself and your skills. Congratulations! But this is only the first step. After a day or two, dig out all those business cards, get on the phone or start typing those emails. And don't forget to say those two magic words: "Thank You."

Surprised? Think that writing (or saying) that Thank You letter is an obsolete practice? Guess again. A Thank You note is guaranteed to improve your chances at getting that job. It cannot possibly hurt you...unless you write to the manager at Merck exclaiming how much you look forward to working at Pfizer. So please please have the contact information ready before you write.

When compiling your Thank You list, a rule of thumb is to try to write to every person you spoke with. At the very least, write to the person to whom you will be reporting (your future boss). Another very, very VERY crucial person to write to is the Human Resources manager, the person who probably first contacted you to set up the interviews. In many companies, the HR manager acts as the "screener" who sizes you up prior to even handing off your resume to the execs. If the HR manager gets the sense you are not a good fit for the job, then your job hunt prospects at that company are pretty much over.

When composing your Thank You letter, try to add in as much details as possible. When writing to your future boss, mention the actual job title/role for which you interviewed, then mention a couple of specifics that were discussed. Don't try and get *too* personal ("I thought your wife looked hot in that picture on your desk!") but something along the lines of, "I was excited when you mentioned drug XYZ was in Phase II trials. I look forward to participating in the research to bring this drug to market in the next year." Not only do you prove you were paying attention during the interview, but you imply you know of the company's future direction, AND you remind them of how you'd be a good fit to the company.

Writing to the HR manager can be strategic as well, mainly because you can get away with saying certain things that you fear may be too bold to mention to your future boss:
"Dear HR Manager: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to meet with Dr. X, the Director of Drug Development in your company, Pills Inc. I would like to take the time now to remind you that I am extremely enthusiastic about this job. As per our discussion, I look forward to hearing from you in the next few days. I also wish to take the time to remind you about the signing bonus; I would request the red BMW but would settle for black or silver."

Ok, kidding about the signing bonus part. But you can see how your little Thank You note to HR can also include that extra *push* of reminding them how much you'd like to hear from them (cough cough) sooner, rather than later. You might also mention things such as the salary range you are hoping for, or even a general feel of a starting date. Many times, HR has already asked you these questions during the initial screening interview. While you don't want to tie yourself down with a set salary or benefits package, you also don't want to be too vague, which might give HR reason to believe either you don't care or you're not going to negotiate/complain if they start you at the lower end of things. You should definitely include your phone number (not as a pickup line!) and stress how you look forward to hearing from them.

And it's as easy as that. As "old fashioned" as the Thank You letter may seem, I really think it's a small gesture of courtesy that goes a long, long way. At worst, you will get no reply. No one is going to vilify you for giving thanks. In many cases, during my second or third round interviews, people have actually mentioned the fact I wrote the letters. It seemed to surprise them in a good way. I think the problem with a lot of new job hunters is they go into job interviews with the feeling that they deserve the job, or the people should be begging/wanting them to take the job. Although it is good to have the confidence prior to a job interview, it should not be expanded into "I'm a Rock Star!" status. You are the job seeker; you are the one out promoting your skills and vying for the job. In most cases, the company is not out to woo you, even if you look like a rock star.

Lest we forget, it is also those rock stars who do extra things for fans, by giving thanks and charity concerts, who seem to have the most success.

2 Responses to “The Most Overlooked Job-Hunting Strategy”

  1. monkeymama Says:

    Agreed, it's good to let them know you are interested in the job. In case they are on the fence, maybe a note and a thank you will make you seem more interested than someone with no follow up.

  2. Carolina Bound Says:

    I've been on the hiring end a lot. A thank you note is great, but it's good to remember that it's just one more courtesy and the real decision will most likely be made on the person's match with the skills needed. I've had to turn down some wonderful, talented people, not because they didn't do everything right, but simply because the competition was tough. I just want everyone who is job-hunting to remember that a rejection is not personal, and it's usually not because you did anything wrong or neglected a courtesy. It's just a really rough market!

    Also, keep trying. I just hired someone who was rejected for the same job two years ago. This time he is the top candidate -- last time he was edged out by someone with more experience in the field. I'm really glad he had the confidence to apply again.

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