Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The art of being appreciative

Your interview is over, you think you've nailed it. Now what?

Thank you notes are an important part of the process and an extra opportunity to shine. Here's how to do it well:

1. Send the note quickly. Not the minute you leave the interview, but preferably that same day. If you must, send the next day, but don't wait any longer.

2. Say something both complimentary and sincere. Hopefully this won't be hard. "I really enjoyed hearing about your research on migration patterns of swallows. Could you please send me the link to your recent paper?" It’s not necessary to ask for something in your follow up. It can be as simple as referencing something you talked. Maybe you mentioned a book your interviewer hadn’t read but found interesting. Send a link.

3. Continuing the interview over email. A parent has asked me, is it appropriate to throw additional information into the follow-up note? For instance, what if your child left something out? It’s a tough question to answer, and not every interviewer will agree with me here. My personal preference would be to leave any additional information out of it. You’ve had an hour or so with your interviewer, she’s gotten a good sense for who you are as a person. Any additional details are unlikely to make a significant difference. This is especially true if you felt the interview went well. Let’s say you feel the interview went poorly. Is it possible to salvage it in a follow-up? Honestly, probably not. But in the second case, you have less to lose, so it may at least be worth a try.

4. Handwritten notes. I would caution against a handwritten note for one simple reason: it may not arrive by the time the interviewer is filling out his feedback forms. And if it doesn’t, then it kind of looks like you haven’t sent one. Will an interviewer hold it against you? He shouldn’t. But we’re all human. And little impressions do add up. Now, all of that said, let’s say your interviewer is older – maybe in his sixties or seventies. Is it possible that he will be charmed by a handwritten note? Of course. So, weigh the risks and make your own decision on this.

5. Staying in touch. This is the optional bonus point level. Did you meet someone incredible? Is she a screenwriter, something you dream about becoming someday? Did she mention that her production company has internships every summer? You don’t lose anything by staying in touch with your interviewer, even if you don’t get in. Drop a line to let her know which college you decided to attend. Send a note congratulating her on a new movie coming out. Try to build a relationship. If it works, you may have found yourself an incredible mentor. And if it doesn’t work? Don’t sweat it and try again. There will be plenty of interviews in your life, whether for summer jobs, fellowships, or other colleges.

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