The Real Reason For “Thank You” Letters Isn’t To Say, “Thank You”

After an interview, sending a “Thank You” letter is common etiquette and a nice thing to do, but saying “thank you” should not be the main reason for sending it. Most candidates send one after interviewing with a company, but as a recruiter, I rarely receive one. I personally don’t need one, but on the occasions when I have received one, I think the candidate misses a great opportunity by just saying, “Thank you for the interview.”

I believe a good “Thank You” letter should be used to reinforce your ability to do the job and/or address any potential issues that came up during the interview. It can be another marketing document. It is important not to over do it, but a tactful letter, that does some subtle marketing can have a big impact on the person reading it.

For example, a few years ago a candidate called me after an interview and said, “I think I blew the interview.” The CEO asked me, ‘What my career plan is for taking this position?’ I answered how over the next few years I would impact my department and how that would impact the company. The CEO responded, “That is fine, but we really want people that want to grow and maybe some day have my job.” The candidate asked me what would be the best way to recover from this or if there was a way to recover. The answer was the, “Thank You” letter.

A carefully worded, “Thank You” letter explained to the CEO that the candidate interpreted the question as asking for the short term impact he would have once on board. He went on to explain, in the “Thank You” letter, that certainly in the long-term his desire was definitely to advance, but he realized that was dependent upon him doing an exceptional job in the role he was being hired to fill, hence the reason for answering the question as he did.

The candidate had the opportunity to address a miscommunication during the interview, which is a common problem with interviews. Ultimately, the candidate did get the job. Would he have gotten it anyway? Hard to tell. One thing is certain, the candidate didn’t think he would have.

Some other basic issues regarding a “Thank You” letter:

  • One page maximum
  • Send shortly after the interview
  • Not an email (with the possible exception of IT professionals)
  • Addressed to a specific person, not “Dear Interviewer” or salutation left blank
  • Individualized to the particular interview, personalized to the specific topic
  • Do not use a generic one-size-fits-all thank you letter

Consider using this as one more chance to market yourself. Don’t over do it. This is not the time for a hard sell. It must be subtle and tactful. It won’t work all the time, but hopefully as in the example, it will work the one time you really need it.

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We encourage comments and your feedback.

Brad Remillard




About the Author

Brad Remillard is a founding Partner of IMPACT Hiring Solutions, co-author of "You're NOT the Person I Hired", and "This is NOT the Position I Accepted". Brad is an award-winning international speaker, retained executive recruiter, and expert on hiring and retaining top talent, and executive job search.


  • By Dave Lindbeck, October 7, 2009 @ 1:05 pm

    Great post! The thank you letter/note is such a lost art, yet can be very impactful tool. When I’ve used them effectively in business, they have put dollars in my pocket.

  • By Leigh, October 14, 2009 @ 9:22 am

    I do have to admit that the thank you’s I receive that are hand-written on a note card or stationary still make that candidate stand out versus the hundreds I receive over email. I know email is certainly quicker/easier but putting forth the extra effort to do it “the old fashioned way” does make you stand out.
    -Leigh, Recruiter

  • By Bobi L, October 23, 2009 @ 2:41 pm

    How does a typed that you card with a handwritten signature sound…I am too nervous to write it myself. I bought some thank you cards and printed out my thank you’s with a handwritten signature.

  • bradremillard

    By bradremillard, October 23, 2009 @ 5:13 pm

    For me this looks canned. I would not use these. If you send multiple cards to the same company they will all be the same.
    As I mention a thank you note should be personalized.
    Also re-read the article. The purpose in NOT to say thank you. So how would the real purpose be accomplished in a pre-printed note.

  • By semuel, January 21, 2010 @ 9:43 pm

    Tks for your idea about this way, I never did this before but its inspiring me to send it

  • By maggie, April 29, 2011 @ 1:36 am

    Leigh, I agree with you. Nothing beats a personalized handwritten thank you letter. Despite being in the 21st century, there are people who prefer to express gratitude on a personalized note.

  • By Bob Diamond, May 1, 2011 @ 1:03 am

    This was an eye opener for me. Prior to reading this, I would have thought that sending a “Thank You” letter via email would have been fine. This just enforces the likely fact that a personalized letter still holds more impact than an electronic one.

    A great post! Thank you for sharing.


  • By JT Cooper, May 3, 2011 @ 11:54 am

    Terrific information on how to use the thank you letter to address any perceived problems in the interview. It sounds like it provides an acceptable second chance to make yourself stand out from the crowd.

  • By Bill - How To Build A Dog House, May 9, 2011 @ 9:59 am

    Wow, I have to say I have never thought of sending a thank you after an interview. I would imagine it would really make you stand out from the crowd, so there is a hidden agenda. I can assure you that if I interviewed someone to work for me and I received a thank you from them, I would definitely remember them, that is for sure.
    Very interesting though.

    All the best,
    Bill Jenkins

  • By Sam Orchard, May 14, 2011 @ 2:45 pm

    I occasionally get thank you letters from clients, and it always makes my day when I do. In a way though, I think the rarity of such an event is what makes it special.

  • By Katie, June 5, 2011 @ 6:08 pm

    Hi, Brad! I got some points there. So, what if I would like to send thank you letter and also express my desire to join the company? Is it okay?

  • bradremillard

    By bradremillard, June 17, 2011 @ 7:53 am

    Yes but you can do both in one letter. It should take two.

  • By Anya Bartholomew, June 30, 2011 @ 6:38 am

    Ha! The truth comes out! Someone finally says out loud what I have been thinking for years. Its not about being thankful, its about saying “I am serious about my job/potential job.” Too often, its a case of out of site out of mind, so when you send a thank you note, you are telling that person that you are thinking about them even though they are not in front of your face. A very powerful strategy to make you stand out of the crowd.

    Homes in Draper, Utah

  • By David Burnham, July 5, 2011 @ 1:19 pm

    The “thank you” letter has become something of a lost art these days. It REALLY makes a significant positive effect post-interview and can give you a leg up on others who may be applying for the same job. Great Post!

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