Job Seeking Tips
Job Hunting and Networking
Completing Job Applications
Preparing for Job Interviews
An Essential Follow-up: The Thank You Note
Richard Bolles in his book What Color is Your Parachute? describes how a survey of successful job-hunters revealed that those who were the most successful had spent time talking to people in various businesses and organizations before they began actively seeking job interviews. These people had tapped into a valuable source of career information--individuals in the work force. Through talking to others, they gained a better idea of how their skills and experience fit into specific industries and career fields. They also knew first hand what type of work environment different jobs offered. They were able to use this information to decide exactly what they wanted to do, target their job search, and market their skills effectively to employers.
This process is especially important if you plan to invest time and money to retrain for a new career by going back to school.This process of gathering information through personal contact is known as Information Interviewing. Besides being a highly effective means of gathering information, Information Interviewing also helps individuals develop confidence in approaching others--a skill which proves valuable when developing job leads.
Anyone may benefit from information interviewing. However, there are some basic rules to follow if information interviewing is to effective.
- You must be looking for information. The purpose of information interviewing is to help you decide what you want to do and where you want to do it. It is not a way to get a job interview.
- Talk to the everyday people who are doing the type of work that you might like to do. At some point you may be referred to as "the person in charge," but do not start at that level.
- Be sure you have located what is available in print about a particular career field, company, organization, or business before you begin interviewing others for information. Libraries, public relations officers, personnel directors, Chambers of Commerce, and occupational organizations and associations are sources which provide information.
- Always ask for an appointment ahead of time. State specifically what you are interested in which is learning more about a particular job, career field, industry, or business. Ask for 15 or 30 minutes of the person's time, and be sure to keep the meeting within that time frame.
- If the person you speak with recommends someone else as a source of further information, always ask if you may use his or her name when contacting the recommended individual.
- Write down the information you received, the name of the person with whom you spoke, and the date of your conversation for your records. Later, you can compared information received from different sources.
- Send a thank you note after the information interview.
The questions you ask during an information interview will depend upon what type of information is most important to you. For some, questions may center around job flexibility, work environment, and job security. Other individuals may be more interested in learning about opportunities for advancement and challenge. It is helpful to decide upon the questions you want to ask before the interview. The following are possible questions to ask during an information interview.
- What is a typical day like?
- What do you like least about your job?
- What do you like most about your job?
- What types of changes are occurring in your field?
- How did you get into this type of work?
- What is your background?
- What types of skills and/or training is needed for this job?
- What type of advancement opportunities does this company offer?
- How do salaries in this field compare with other fields?
- Whom do you suggest I talk to for further information?
- May I use your name in contacting them?
- What problems do you think I will have finding a job in this field?
- What suggestions do you have for anyone who is interested in getting into this type of work?
One of the most frustrating parts of the job search is locating job openings. All job seekers from the recent college graduate to the self-employed businessman changing careers to the homemaker entering the work force ask the same question, "How do I find openings for the type of position that I want?" The following series of questions and answers explains how successful job seekers locate employment.
Q. What is the best source for finding job openings?
A. There is no one centralized direct list of employment openings, rather, job seekers find opening through a variety of sources. The following list indicates how most people find employment:
48% = Friends and family
24% = Direct contact with employers
13% = Combination of the other listed sources
6% = School placement services
5% = Help wanted ads
3% = Public employment agencies
1% = Private Employment Agencies
By far, most people found the job they now have either by directly contacting an employer or through word of mouth.
Q. Why are most jobs found outside of want-ads or employment agencies?
A. About 80% of all job openings never reach the general public. Instead of through the traditional want-ads or employment agencies these positions are filled a number of ways. For example, employers may ask their employees or colleagues for recommendations of possible applicants, employees may hear of a prospective job opening within their company and pass the word along, employers may contact prior applicants, or a job seeker may approach the company at just the right time and be hired before an opening is announced.
Q. It appears that getting a job depends on who you know or being in the right place at the right time. Isn't that just a matter of luck?
A. Sometimes it does seem that way, but there are definite strategies that job seekers can use to tap into what is called the "Hidden Job Market". Successful job hunters learn to develop their own job leads. In other words they get in touch with employers before job positions are announced. They also use whatever contacts they have to learn of prospective openings and work at developing new contacts. This technique is known as networking.
Q. What about contacting businesses directly? Do I go to the Human Resource offices?
A. Contacting human resourceoffices is a good way to start but you should not limit yourself to them. Your goal should be to make contact with people inside the work place, preferably with those who make hiring decisions. Use your networking skills to find out who these people are and to get referrals to speak with them.
Q. What if there are no current openings within a business? Should I talk to an employer if I am not interviewing for a position?
A. Contacting human resources within a business serves three main purposes:
Q. Where can I learn more about developing job leads?
- To learn of immediate and prospective openings and to let people know that you are interested in working for their business.
- To get specific information about that particular business or industry.
- To learn about a career field in which you are interested by talking to someone who works in that field. Be up front about your intentions. If you approach an individual to learn about a business don't expect a job interview. Generally, job seekers building upon their contacts, first getting information, suggestions and referrals and later directing their energies to securing a job interview when there is a prospective or immediate job opening.
A. Universities, Community Colleges and Libraries carry a number of books about job hunting. An excellent book for anyone who is re-entering the work force or is making a career change is, What Color is Your Parachute? by Richard Bolles.
- Job hunting is a full time job - preferably 35-40 hours a week.
- Take the initiative. Meet employers face-to-face.
- Changes of getting a job are better with smaller companies than with large ones.
- Do homework on yourself. Identify your skills in great detail, and in priority.
- Research your potential employer. Find out all you can about the organization--show an interest.
- Be persistent - not aggressively obnoxious. Keep at the job hunt - make return visits.
- Sell your skills, not your "old" occupation. Being a "farmer", a "homemaker," or a "steel worker" can limit you.
- Discover or develop alternate names for the work you do - or alternate jobs where you can use the same skill.
- Investigate many different organizations or businesses for job openings. Don't limit yourself to one type of organization.
- Don't "put all of your eggs in one basket" - such as relying only on relatives, just sending out resumes, or just applying to your first employer choice.
- Determine what makes you better at the job you are after than other people that do what you do, then market it!
- Get as many other people helping you look for a job as possible. Friends, relatives, coworkers, professionals, and so on.
- Look as sharp as possible. Be clean, well-dressed and alert.
- Be sure to write thank you notes to whomever assists you in your job search - daily if possible.
- No one "owes" you a job. It's up to you to "win" a job by showing a potential employer you have the right attitude and skill.
A Powerful Job Search Technique
Networking: Making use of your existing, or expanded, list of contacts to identify potential employers and to learn of jobs which may be of interest to you.
Network contacts: family, friends, school, employment, professional, and community.
Hints for Networking:
- Share a copy of your latest resume with your network.
- Don't ask them for a job, just ask for their ideas about where you might turn.
- Turn to them again if your initial contacts do not produce enough.
- When you accept a job, notify them and thank them for their help.
Steps to Networking
START BY CONTACTING PEOPLE THAT YOU ALREADY KNOW
Your friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, etc. should be part of your initial network. Don't hesitate to let people know that you are job hunting. Remember, making contacts is part of the job search process.
GIVE YOUR CONTACTS ADEQUATE INFORMATION
Specify your skills, qualifications, and the type of job that you are pursuing. It is a good idea to make a copy of your resume available. The resume will give the individuals in your network a better idea of your skills and career goals as well as help them recommend you more effectively to prospective employers should the opportunity arise.
KEEP RECORDS OF YOUR NETWORKING ACTIVITIES
Record the name of each person that you contact and the information which they provide. A filing system using index cards will keep your information organized and provide a visual reminder of your progress. Having a record of each of your contacts will assist you when contacting referrals and when following up on prospective job leads. Never discard information. What may seem irrelevant this week could be useful in the future.
FOLLOW THROUGH ON THE INFORMATION THAT YOU ARE GIVEN
This is the crucial step in networking. Networking is not limited to receiving tips on job leads, your contacts can also provide useful information about businesses and industries and referrals to people employed in your career field. As you check out job leads, contact referrals, and initiate contact with prospective employers you should be continuously gathering further information and referrals. As your network expands your prospects of discovering job openings increases.
BE AWARE OF THE IMPRESSION THAT YOU MAKE
Project a friendly, confident image. Never put pressure on anyone to find a job for you. Whenever contacting someone you do not know well, write the questions that you wish to ask beforehand. You will feel and appear both better prepared and less nervous. Also, go over any information that you already have which may be helpful. (This is when your networking records prove valuable). When initially contacting your referrals always indicate who referred you to them. Remember to express your appreciation to everyone who takes the time to speak with you regardless of whether they were able to provide the information that you wanted.
(Adapted from Job Hunting: A Self-Directed Guide by Charlie Mitchell and Lauren Collins)
Employees with good telephone skills can make a favorable impression on prospective customers. The same is true in your job search. How do you make a good impression and get the information you need? The following guidelines can help you become more effective on the telephone.
- Be Prepared. Write down questions you want to ask ahead of time. Practice asking your questions out loud to yourself or practice them with a friend or family member. Check how your voice sounds - you may want to sound relaxed and natural, loud enough to be heard clearly but not too loud. Remember not to speak too fast! Before you pick up the phone, take a few deep breaths to help you relax.
- Know What to Say. When preparing what you want to say, keep these points in mind:
- Identify yourself. Be sure to give your first and last name. If you were referred, give the name of your referral.
- State the purpose of the call. Most calls will fall into the following categories:
Requests for information about occupations/businesses.
Inquiries into job prospects.
Requests for appointments and interviews.
Requests for applications.
Inquiries about a specific job opening.
Be Specific. Know what you want to ask. Be clear and brief.
- Be ready to provide information about yourself if asked. Keep the information brief and related to your personal characteristics, skills, and experience.
- Ask for names of other people to contact, job leads, suggestions or advice.
- Thank the person for their assistance and time.
Be Courteous. Never make a bad impression by being rude. You will have an easier time getting to the people who can hire you if you are courteous and friendly.
Be Assertive and not Pushy. Be firm and persistent about getting your questions answered. You may have to talk to two or three people to get the information you need. If the person you are speaking to is not helpful or even unpleasant, don't get flustered or angry. Keep a calm and polite voice and ask if there is another person who can help you or suggest calling back at a better time.
Take Notes. Be prepared to write down the information you receive and the name and position of the person you are speaking to. It's too difficult to remember everything and you don't want to appear disorganized by having to call back with the same question.
Why Companies Require an Application
Companies have reasons for requiring every job applicant to fill out a standardized job application. By having all potential employees complete their forms, they'll have all the information needed for the initial screening process and have it listed in the same order for each person applying for the job. The application form makes it easier to select those applicants they want to interview, thus speeding up the selection process and benefiting the applicants.
Some companies use the application form itself as an employment test. Scores are given to the applicant on neatness, accuracy, and completeness. Even though most companies don't do this, the impression you make with your application form may be a lasting one. So, take it seriously, be prepared, and take your time to do it right.
Acquiring the Application Form
Most job applicants pick up the application forms at the company's personnel office or directly from the individual in charge of hiring, and then they complete the forms there. This method certainly has some advantages: the applicant does not have to pay postage and can be assured that the forms are in the hands of the right people. It also has some drawbacks, including 1) the possibility of the applicant not having all the information that is requested, or 2) an insufficient amount of time to think over responses or to seek advice from others.
When you pick up an application form, you may want to take it home with you so that you can take enough time and have all the information at your disposal to fill it out properly. If possible, pick up more than one copy of the form so you can use one for practice or make a copy before you begin filling it out. This insures that you will have a clean copy on which to provide all your well prepared responses.
Completing a Job Application ... Some Do's and Don'ts
- Take the application home if possible.
- Type it or print very clearly in black ink. The employer expects that your application will be an example of your best work.
- Communicate your background clearly with action words.
- Use your full legal name, not a "nickname".
- If there is a blank for "salary desired" try to give a salary range or state "open" or "negotiable".
- Include all dates of employment and verify those dates.
- Complete all blocks on the form. If an item is not applicable, put N/A (not applicable).
- If possible, attach a well-written resume for quick review.
- Include all experiences - paid and volunteer.
- Try to make your application interesting - use action verbs.
- If the application asks if you would consider temporary or part time work, don't say "no" without realizing that you might be passing up an opportunity to "get in" the company.
- Use references who can attest to your work ability and can remember you. It's a good idea to ask their permission first. Those considered good references include: a recognized community leader, a former employer or teacher, friends who are established in business.
- Don't misspell words.
- Don't omit your signature or date of application.
- Don't attach any other pieces of information (transcript, letters of recommendation, etc.) other than a short resume, unless specifically requested.
- Don't omit community, civic, church or club work.
- Don't ever be negative.
- Don't make your application a challenge to read - make it clear, complete and neat.
- Don't write "anything" in answer to the question "position desired." Employers expect you to state clearly the kind of work you are seeking.
Preparation for Completing Job Applications
If you can't take the application home, be ready to fill it out at the company by making the following preparations:
- Bring all the information you may need to complete the job application. A "master" application form is a tremendous help. At a minimum, have a list prepared of previous schools attended and employers. Include addresses and dates of your attendance or employment.
- Know your social security number.
- Take a pen with you.
- Read the instructions carefully.
- Answer every question that applies to you or use N/A, which means "not applicable."
- Have available the correct names and addresses of at least three people that you can use as personal references.
- Upon completion, check the application over at least twice for possible errors.
Research Jobs and Know Yourself
Preparing for the job interview is a key step in the interviewing process. It is important to learn as much as you can about the company or organization with which you will be interviewing. Taking the initiative to find out as much information as possible before the interview can make the difference between a successful or unsuccessful interview. In addition to learning about the company or organization you should also research the product manufactured or the service provided. Resources for learning about a company or organization include specific company literature and brochures, telephone books, Chamber of commerce publications, and the Missouri Directory of Manufacturers. Other resources include friends, libraries, and contacts developed through networking.
Another part of preparation for the job interview is assessing your skills, abilities, experiences, and accomplishments. This is something you may have already done as you developed your resume, however; it is important to be ready to respond to questions about yourself, and be able to communicate how you can meet the employer's needs.
Preparation for the job interview requires learning as much about the company/organization and its products and/or services as possible. Further, know yourself, so you can sell yourself effectively during the interview. Good preparation is essential for effective interviewing.
During the interview it is crucial to pay careful attention to the questions. Remember, not every employer knows his/her role as an interviewer, or is comfortable with it. Some questions may have several interpretations. If this occurs while you are interviewed, state what you think the interviewer asked or ask for more specific information before responding. For some questions, you may need a few seconds to think about your response before answering.
The following are questions from the Northwestern Endicott Report which may be asked during an interview:
Additional questions from Sweaty Palms: The Neglected Art of Being Interviewed by H. Anthony Medley include the following:
- What do you consider to be your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
- How would you describe yourself?
- How do you think a friend, employee or work partner, who knows you well would describe you?
- What motivates you to put forth your greatest effort?
- Why should I hire you?
- Describe the relationship that should exist between a supervisor and those reporting to him or her?
- Why did you decide to seek a position with this company?
- How do you spend your spare time? What are your hobbies?
- Why do you think you would like this particular job?
- Do you prefer working with others or by yourself?
- What have you learned form some of the jobs you have held?
Other examples of interview questions include:
- Tell me about your present job.
- Tell me about yourself.
- How many hours a day do you think a person should spend on his/her job?
- What is unique about yourself?
- Do you have any questions?
- What have you done that indicates that you are qualified for this job?
- What do you like best about your job?
- What do you like least about your job?
- For what type of supervisor do you work best?
- What is important to you in your work?
- How do you handle pressure on the job?
- What type of activities outside work did you do that you can use on the job?
- What are your long range and short range goals?
- What do you really want to do with your life?
- What qualifications do you have that will make you successful in our organization?
- What are your skills?
- In what ways can you make a contribution to our organization?
- What are your greatest accomplishments?
- What do you know about our organization?
- What qualities make a good manager?
- How do you feel about overtime?
- What salary do you expect?
- Do you like to work with people? Have you had to supervise employees?
- Are you willing to travel or relocate?
Most interviews include behaviorial questions. Be prepared.
What is it?
Behavioral interviewing is a technique used by employers in which the questions asked assist the employer in making predictions about a potential employee's future success based on actual past behaviors, instead of based on responses to hypothetical questions.
In behavior-based interviews, you are asked to give specific examples of when you demonstrated particular behaviors or skills.
General answers about behavior are not what the employer is looking for. You must describe in detail a particular event, project, or experience and you dealt with the situation, and what the outcome was.
Examples of behavioral interview questions:
- Describe a time when you were faced with problems or stresses at work that tested your coping skills. What did you do?
- Give an example of a time when you had to be relatively quick in coming to a decision.
- Give me an example of an important goal you had to set and tell me about your progress in reaching that goal.
- Describe the most creative work-related project you have completed.
- Give me an example of a problem you faced on the job, and tell me how you solved it.
- Tell me about a situation in the past year in which you had to deal with a very upset customer or co-worker.
- Give me an example of when you had to show good leadership.
Responding well to these types of questions:
Be specific, not general or vague. Don't describe how you would behave. Describe how you did actually behave. If you later decided you should have behaved differently, explain this. The employer will see that you learned something from experience.
STAR Interviewing Response Technique for Success in Behavioral Job Interviews
One strategy for preparing for behavioral interviews is to use the STAR Technique, as outlined below. (This technique is often referred to as the SAR and PAR techniques as well.)
|Situation or Task
||Describe the situation that you were in or the task that you needed to accomplish. You must describe a specific event or situation, not a generalized description of what you have done in the past. Be sure to give enough detail for the interviewer to understand. This situation can be from a previous job, from a volunteer experience, or any relevant event.
|Action you took
||Describe the action you took and be sure to keep the focus on you. Even if you are discussing a group project or effort, describe what you did -- not the efforts of the team. Don't tell what you might do, tell what you did.
|Results you achieved
||What happened? How did the event end? What did you accomplish? What did you learn?
Practicing your answers to these types of questions is a good way to prepare for an interview. This does not mean you should memorize responses. Rather, it is important to be prepared for a variety of questions that may be asked during the interview.
You must indicate to the employer that you are interested. Medley, in Sweaty Palms, states that enthusiasm, sincerity, tact, and courtesy are important qualities to communicate to the interviewer. These characteristics must be genuine and not appear phony. Try to be as natural and comfortable as possible during the interview.
Dress appropriately for the job for which you are interviewing. Conservative clothing in coordinated colors is generally the best choice. If you are unsure of what is appropriate, visit the work site if possible before the interview to get an idea of the standard dress code. Dress a shade better than you normally would on the job. Pay careful attention to grooming details including nails, shoes, and hair. Your appearance should indicate that you are confident and pay attention to detail.
Salary is a concern for many as they interview for jobs. According to Medley, this is one topic you should not bring up first. Generally, the interviewer will not want to discuss salary until he/she has formed a favorable impression of the interviewee.
It is helpful if you can find out what the position pays when you are researching the company prior to your interview. Medley recommends that, in general, questions relating to salary, vacation and benefits should not be raised until the interviewer has done so or has let you know that he/she is interested in you.
In summary, job interviewing requires preparation. This includes researching the company/organization, knowing yourself, and preparing for questions asked during the interview. Good preparation will produce benefits as you go through the job interview and job search process. Most libraries have an area denoted to career planning. In addition to general information about careers, you can find specific information about companies. Look for other following reference materials:
Company web pages on the Internet
Missouri Business Directory
Missouri Directory of Manufacturers
Job Bank Series
For additional information on Job Seeking Tips, call the Missouri Career Information Hotline toll-free at 1-800-392-2949.
- What characteristics do you look for in applicants?
- Who would my coworkers be?
- What training and supervision is provided?
- What is appropriate attire for work?
- What opportunities for advancement are available within the organization?
- In what direction do you see the organization going in the future?
- When might a decision be made as to whom will be offered the job?
- Will you notify me? (or) May I contact you later?
- Can I provide you with any further information?
DO be sure of the time, place and name of the interviewer.
DO plan to arrive early (at least 15 minutes). This will give you a cushion against unexpected delays, like traffic jams, and shows reliability and interest.
DO dress neatly and conservatively in a style consistent with the job which you are seeking. Don't be a slob, but don't overdress. For example, an expensive three-piece suit might be just the thing for certain top management sales positions, but if interviewing for a position as a maintenance foreman or a service station manager, the interviewer might assume you have unrealistic expectations about the job. In the latter case, a sport coat, or even a nice windbreaker and slacks might be more appropriate. A lot just depends on local and company standards. If possible, check-out the work place beforehand and see what others in positions similar to the one you are seeking wear on the job--then dress about the same or just a shade better for your interview.
DO bring a pen and pocket notebook (one small enough to stick out-of-sight). First you may be given information to write down, and you won't want to seem unprepared. Second, you'll want to make notes after the interview with an eye to self-improvement, and as a reminder of what you've already said in case you are asked back for a follow-up interview.
DO remember and use the interviewer's name (NOT the first name, unless you are so invited). If the interviewer is a woman use Ms., unless you know beforehand whether she prefers Miss, Mrs. or Ms. Should you run into an interviewer whom you know has a doctoral degree, such as a Ph.D., be sure to address him or her as Doctor.
DO offer to shake hands when you meet the interviewer. At the end of the interview, offer to shake hands again. This applies regardless of your sex, or that of the interviewer. However, you may encounter interviewers who are uncomfortable with this new etiquette. In that case, go with what is most comfortable for you.
DON'T sit until the interviewer offers you a chair or seats him/herself first.
DON'T chew gum or tobacco.
DO consider your answers carefully. A thoughtful pause on the "tough" questions is quite permissible, and in fact, will probably make a better impression than if you blurt out the first thing that comes to mind.
DO be outwardly oriented. Think of the other person. Interviewers, like everyone else, are concerned first and foremost with their own interests, problems, ambitions and so on. Be sensitive to this and watch for cues to the interviewer's concerns, both professional and personal.
You will also find that some interviewers are themselves inexperienced, or carrying their own heavy burdens of stress. Anything you can do to make the occasion easier or more interesting for them will be a point in your favor. Thinking about the other person will also help to keep you from thinking about and showing your own nervousness.
DO be alert for the intentional introduction of stress factors. Avoid showing insecurity or discouragement, even though you may understandably feel that way. You have nothing to lose by keeping it under control and you may gain a lot. Remember that you are a worthwhile person, however the interview comes out.
DO ask questions: About the company, the department, the job itself and tasks involved. Asking intelligent questions will probably require some research (there's that word again!). Show your interest and knowledge. Find out what will be expected of you on the job and tailor your answers and comments accordingly. To start describing all your skills, strengths, and accomplishments without knowing what the employer is looking for is like sailing full-speed-ahead without a rudder or compass.
DON'T brag about who you know (important connections, etc.)
DO bring your sense of humor along.
Immediately after the interview, use your pocket notebook. Write down your general impressions of how it went and anything that may help you improve your future interviews. Were there questions you weren't prepared for? What were they? How did the interviewer seem to respond to your answers? Could you have given better answers to some questions? How did he/she respond to any questions you asked? Don't be too hard on yourself--remember, giving a good interview takes practice, and besides no two interviewers are just alike and cannot be expected to respond the same to all your comments or questions.
Note also any information the interviewer gave about the job itself, salary and benefits, as well as your impressions of the company. This will be helpful should it become necessary for you to choose between jobs.
Within a day after the interview, send the interviewer a thank you note expressing appreciation for his or her time and interest. This will show your interest and help keep you in the interviewer's mind.
A little gratitude, properly worded, goes far
By Stanley Wynett
The letter of thanks for a job interview is the last chance you are likely to get to make a lively and vivid impression on the person who may hire you.
Over and over, employers say they are influenced favorably toward an applicant by a thank you letter. Yet, 49 out of 50 job hunters overlook it entirely or squander the opportunity with a colorless form letter.
The thank you letter is a sample of your work, and you are sure to be judged by the intelligence it conveys. If you can talk on paper in a friendly, confident way, your prospective employer thinks to himself, "This is the kind of thoughtful approach I'd like in our correspondence." He perceives you as the kind of valuable person any company would like to employ.
Can a thank you letter really do all that? Well, perhaps not in every instance, but a smart thank you letter might clinch it for you. If you impress him more favorably than your competitors, then why should he pay more attention to them?
Maybe you're thinking that trying to impress an interviewer after the interview is like feeding soup to the dead. What's the point? Hasn't he already made up his mind about you? Not necessarily.
Robert Half, author of The Robert Half Way to Get Hired in Today's Job Market, considers it an integral follow-up to an interview, not just a matter of etiquette. He writes, "No matter how the interview went...you should send off a brief letter of thanks the same night." And Richard Bolles, author of the perennial best seller, What Color is Your Parachute, considers it "one of the most essential steps in the whole job-seeking process--and the most overlooked by job seekers."
Last summer I surveyed executives for their opinion on hiring issues, including thank you letters. The survey went to 500 employers in 28 industries and included chief executives of Fortune 500 companies, sales and office managers and small-business owners. The results showed that 59 percent were still undecided about a hiring decision after an interview and that more than half (52%) said thank you letters influenced their decision toward a candidate.
The first step in writing a worthwhile letter is to understand that the employer may be busy, tired, preoccupied or just plain indifferent when your letter reaches his "in" basket. Employers respond just as the rest of us do to fresh approaches that read well and are tinged with showmanship. Showmanship, appropriately restrained, can win quick and favorable attention.
There's no business law that states you must write your thank you note only on standard size, white stationery, and phrase your introduction and close in the same language everyone else uses. Great formality is the mark of the insecure. You make yourself look average by conforming.
Try to give your thank you letter an original twist and watch how interest in it picks up. The possible rewards far outweigh the risks, and your future boss will be grateful.
Let's start with the salutation, your opening greeting, which will set the tone of what follows. If the interview resulted in a friendly relationship between the two of you, and then he invited you to address him by his first name or a nickname, surely there can be no harm in doing so in your thank you letter. But I suggest you consider using the following style as a mark of respect, dangling the implication you haven't forgotten he's the boss: "Dear Mr. Forester (Nick):
On the other hand, if the interviewer was cool and reserved, then by all means greet him formally: Thank you, Mr. Forester.
Keep up the enthusiasm for the job. I cannot over stress how refreshing it is for employers to see genuine enthusiasm for the job and its responsibilities. Too often, they end up trying to decide between dozens of needy job seekers who seem willing to take anything. Enthusiasm for the job is the mainspring of opportunity.
Keep your letter brief. You can't be boring if you're concise. Don't beg or plead. It won't help. He's too busy trying to be successful himself to worry about your problems. Besides, you'll cause him to wonder why nobody else wants you. The strongest message you can send to any employer is "I don't need you."
Don't peter out at the close. A standard close is just as likely to mark you dull or average as a standard beginning. Avoid closing with meek or passive phrases, e.g., "Hoping to hear from you" or "I look forward to hearing from you." If you really want the job, then ask him for it and stop.
There's no harm in signing off with "Sincerely," but there's no advantage in it either. Most of your competitors will use it too. Why not try "Yours with appreciation," or simply "With gratitude?"
Let me give you three examples of thank you letters to cover the three possible endings of most job interviews.
- When you've been told, "We'll let you know.":
Thank you, Mr. Forester:
I realize that interviews rarely end with on-the-spot decisions. In fact, I wasn't expecting a yes or no answer when I met with you last Thursday morning. Even so, I appreciate the time you spent with me. I know that only a few of the applicants were invited for personal interviews, and I'm grateful to have been included among them. I like XYZ Corporation. I'm excited about this job. It's exactly the kind of position in which I know I can excel, given the chance to prove it. I'm confident that a year from now you'll congratulate yourself for hiring me.
Yours with appreciation,
- When you've been invited back for a second interview:
Thank you, Mr. Forester:
My meeting with you last Thursday morning was most productive. I enjoyed talking with you. I particular appreciated your efforts to arrange an interview for me with Mr. Norman. The information you gave me regarding his department's goals and needs was just what I needed. I feel fully informed and prepared to demonstrate to Mr. Norman how I can make an immediate contribution--thanks to you. You won't regret having referred me.
Yours in appreciation,
- When you've been offered the job, but want time to mull it over:
Thank you, Mr. Forester:
I enjoyed meeting with you last Thursday. I was especially glad to hear the magic words: "We want you." Let me assure you the feeling is mutual. I don't believe in interviewing just for the practice. But while I'm serious about the job, I greatly appreciate the time you've given me to mull it over, discuss it with my family, etc. I realize that the ball is now in my court. I'll phone you with my answer shortly.