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When I performed in plays throughout college, I maintained a pre-show ritual. I’d arrive backstage early and start penning thank-you notes to my fellow cast mates (mostly adorned with puns, cat pictures and the like.) I’d write lines such as, “Our show’s finally opening! You have cat to be kitten me right now!” While it wasn’t mandatory for me to write these notes (especially since I’d usually only get chocolate treats from my fellow actors), I did it because I wanted them to know I enjoy working with them and learning from them. It was a way for me to stand out among the other cast members.

Unlike the notes I sent, post-interview thank yous are a required gesture – that is, if you want to be in the running to get the job. A targeted and strategic thank-you note can effectively elevate your candidate status while displaying your flawless follow-up skills.

Here are five quick tips for crafting a winning thank-you note:

1. Be mindful of timing
Avoid sending your thank-you note two weeks or even two days post-interview. This is about as strategic as sending a thank-you note to your grandma today for that Snuggie you got for Christmas back in ’06. Instead, send an email within the first 24 hours post-interview, and then if you want to send a handwritten card too, you have a little more breathing room (but again, still send it as soon as possible).

2. Strategize your gratitude
Let’s say you sent this as a follow up after your interview:

Dear hiring manager,

Thank you for meeting with me to interview for the candy tester position. It was my treat!

Sincerely,

Garfield

While nice, and a good use of a pun, a general “canned” thank-you note isn’t going to get you to the next stage of the interview process.

So, what’s the difference between a thank-you note that is interpreted as a nice gesture, and one that can tip the scales in your favor? Strategy. An effective thank you not only thanks the interviewer for his time, but it reiterates the reason why you’re the right candidate for the position. Highlight your strengths and restate the potential value you can bring to the organization. And if you are interviewing for several positions at once, make sure your follow up does not sound generic.

3. Bring up what was discussed
Another important part of a follow-up note is bringing it back to what you discussed during the interview. What are some projects the hiring manager mentioned in the interview process? How can you specifically contribute to these current projects and what are some instances of past successes that may exemplify these skills?

4. Fill in the blanks
Was there anything you meant to bring up during the interview but it slipped your mind? The thank-you note is the perfect place to bring up any points not discussed with the interviewer. Or perhaps you had some trouble answering one of the interviewer’s questions – the follow-up gives you a chance to clarify your response. Don’t write a novel, but short and sweet isn’t always the best approach either. Strike a balance that fills in the blanks from the interview while maintaining clarity and conciseness.

5. Add a personal touch
To stand out among other candidates, considering mentioning a personal connection in addition to reiterating your valuable skills. Noting your mutual fondness of home brewing and “House of Cards” can remind the interviewer of who you are as a person, hopefully igniting an interest in cultivating a work relationship.

When making any personal references, listen to your intuition. If your interviewer was curt and to the point, then let that inform the tone of your note. If she was easygoing and the interview was more conversational, then reflect that energy. Managers hire people for their skills, but they also want to hire people who seem like a cultural fit too.

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