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Thank-Yous Matter

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In the wake of the spring Education Interview Day on our campus, I am reminded of, and wish to remind you of, the importance of writing thank-you letters to interviewers. I am sure that all of you have heard it before, and it seems minor, but in cases where multiple candidates have similar qualifications and experience, the thank you can make a difference.

Some time ago, at a career services advisory council meeting, someone on my staff asked the members from the employer side how many of the candidates they interviewed sent thank yous after the interview. The employer members agreed that the percentage was below 20% and likely closer to 10%. As a career services professional who implores candidates to write thank yous, I was floored. These employer members were not from the education field, and I suspect we educators do much better. Nonetheless, I doubt we reach 100%.

When I talk with job seekers about thank yous, the most-asked question today is whether email is acceptable. There are diverse opinions on this, so ask your education administrator friends and your local career services personnel. My response generally is that the immediacy of email makes it desirable, but the temptation of email's informality is its downfall. Proper email etiquette is a subject for another day, but most employers prefer something else. I emphasize the "most," because I do occasionally run across a recruiter who says that email is perfectly acceptable, if not preferable (usually because it is NOT paper). I often advise sending an email immediately after the interview and following as soon as possible with a hard-copy thank you.

There are some employer surveys that say that handwritten thank yous are preferred. This preference is predicated, of course, on the legibility of one's handwriting. In my own job searches, I generally send handwritten thank yous, but I have to work at making sure the recipients can read them! If there is some doubt, a typed thank you letter should be perfectly acceptable.

If you failed to mention some detail in your interview that you would like the recruiter to know, the thank you is a great place to mention it. Likewise, if you would like to reiterate some pertinent piece of information, do it. Always mention your continued interest in the job.

If you need an example, there are plenty on the Web. I usually refer candidates to Job Choices from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), which many career centers have for distribution. Job Choices has excellent samples of all the types of letters one would use in a job search, so if you do not have a copy, contact your local university career center for a copy.

We have a local resume-writer who posts flyers on our campus and offers to write letters, including thank yous, for a fee. Ignore those. You are an educator; show your potential employer that you understand the etiquette and know how to write your own.

--Kent McAnally,
Director of Career Services,
Washburn University, on behalf of AAEE

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