What Should the Employer Look for in an Interview Thank You Letter?

The Interview Thank You Letter Is an Opportunity to Know Your Candidate

The candidate's interview thank you letter can provide a lot of information to an HR pro.
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In the day-to-day busy, it's easy to quickly glance at an interview thank you letter from a candidate, smile, and move on to your next task. When you do this, however, you are by-passing a little goldmine of information in the interview thank you letter about your candidate.

What's important about a thank you letter or email that you receive from each candidate following the interview? Lots. Especially if you use each interaction with the candidate to assess his or her cultural fit within your organization, these interview thank you letters add one more piece to the puzzle.

And, it is a puzzle you piece together from all of the information you obtain from each step in your hiring process. The finished puzzle enables you to select the most qualified candidate for your open positions.

Does the Interview Thank You Letter Send a Message?

The fact that the candidate sent an interview thank you letter or an email signals that he or she cares about the position. You can assess the candidate as polite and caring enough to know how to do appropriate follow-up.

Should you disqualify a candidate who fails to send a thank you letter? Not necessarily, but with the proliferation of job searching how-to materials available, it is surprising when a candidate, who wants the job, skips this polite step.

And, sometimes, qualified candidates are not available for the job you are filling, so you will want to make your decision based on more important qualifications. Failure to send an interview thank you letter to each employer can signal arrogance from a candidate with a marketable skill set.

But, the candidate may also just have forgotten or doesn't know, the niceties. So, don't march too quickly to a judgment that is not supported by other evidence.

What Should an Employer Look for in an Interview Thank You Letter?

These are the key opportunities that the interview thank you letter provides for employers.

  • As with all application materials, you want to see an error-free and well-written copy. More than the resume or the cover letter, the interview thank you letter is the candidate writing sample that is least likely to have been reviewed by others. So, the interview thank you letter is your best bet to assess your candidate's writing style and competence.
    Is excellent writing needed for all positions? No, but freedom from typos, spelling, and grammatical errors, and poorly written sentences signals a candidate who pays attention to detail and cares.
  • Evidence that the candidate is enthusiastic about the job, your company and the people he or she met is important. Some candidates are just attempting to get the job—any job. Your preferable candidate is actively choosing you in the employer-candidate match dance.
  • Look at what the candidate emphasizes about the job, the company, and the people he or she met. Did the candidate place emphasis on what was important to you? Did the candidate seem to catch on to what was the most important outcomes from your position? Do you have the sense that what you communicated to the candidate was understood, so the candidate is not surprised at what the job comprises further along in the hiring process?
  • Did the candidate have follow-up questions that you need to make sure are answered? Perhaps you'll want to quickly schedule a second interview. You don't want to let a qualified person move on to another employer because they lacked information that you could have supplied.
  • Does the candidate indicate that he or she understands the next step in your hiring process and timeline? Again, you don't want to lose your most qualified person because they think you don't want them or that they are your second choice. You need to respond quickly to your candidates of choice and communicate regularly through your hiring process.
  • If the candidate has reiterated his or her qualifications, do they match what you are searching for closely—especially in the key areas identified? You don't want to settle for a so-so candidate because of the pressure to accomplish the work or an artificial Human Resources department measure such as average length of time to hire.

While this is detailed information about what an employer should look for in an interview thank you letter from a candidate, note that you can accomplish this review quite quickly. And, the more times you apply these questions to interview thank you letters, the more efficient the process will become for you.

The interview thank you letter is just one more piece in the puzzle of successful candidate selection. Use your interview thank you letter review to enhance your knowledge about your candidates.