A short thank you note can say a lot more than that to an employer

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After interviewing extensively and consequently writing countless thank you notes, you start to wonder how important they are. Do people actually read them? Does sending a thank you note make someone more likely to hire you?

Vincent Quan, a 20-year veteran of the retail management and fashion industry in New York City says, “The importance depends on the interviewer, but why leave anything to chance? There is nothing to lose, but all to gain.”

In cases where it does matter, it can make all the difference. “It just reminds you about the person that you may have interviewed last week and forgotten about,” says Caroline Lock, an editor at EYE WEEKLY magazine in Toronto. “And you want to send it quickly enough so people remember who you were. Assume they’re interviewing five or six people a day.”

In the thank you note itself, small details are important, says Quan. “Make sure to reiterate something said by the interviewer. This shows you were attentive to what was being said during the interview.”

Lock says she agrees. “Put as much care into the thank you note as you put into your cover letter and resumé.” She says that when there are two candidates neck and neck for the same position, a thank you note could be what tips the scales in your favour.

But be careful when composing the message, she says. “If your note is full of errors, that could be what helps the other person get the job.”

Misspelled words and incorrect grammar demonstrates a lack of professionalism, says Quan. “To some, it indicates sloppiness and a lack of intelligence.” These interviewers aren’t just being picky: strong communication skills are key in most career paths.

When it comes to the question of mailing or emailing the thank you note, some employers prefer emailed thank you notes while others still advise handwritten or “snail mailed” notes.

The obvious advantage of email is the speed by which it will reach the interviewer. “Thank you notes sent via email are preferred,” says Quan. “I strongly believe in ‘speed to market.’”

Lock says that, in this day and age, “It just makes so much more sense to send everything by email, and I can forward it to people.”

If you really want to get it right, it might make sense to ask the interviewer what he or she would prefer. Sometimes the organization’s culture can also offer you clues. For example, one hiring manager’s signature read, “Fax: So Eighties.”

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About the author

Mira Saraf studied psychology and English at McGill University. When she graduated, she wanted to pursue journalism but somehow ended up working in Montreal's garment industry. From there, she moved to New York to attend FIT. She worked there for a year before moving back to Toronto to work for Winners. Two and a half years in she took over a year off to pursue writing education and a career in freelance writing. She has since returned to the industry and now works for Loblaw/Joe Fresh. She continues to write on a part time basis.