Fixing an interview blunder?
October 31, 2010 6:27 PM   Subscribe

I forgot to send a courtesy follow-up e-mail to my interviewer. I was told to expect a decision this week. Is it too late to make things right?

Last week, I interviewed (via telephone) for a part-time position with my alma mater. Only local alumni with particular interests and flexible schedules are eligible, so naturally the application process was relatively laid-back. I've always been terrible at conveying enthusiasm, so I tried to make it extra clear during my interview how much I want this job.

I was told to expect a reply by Monday or Tuesday.

The problem: Later that day, I typed up a standard follow-up e-mail, which I only now realized was never received by my interviewer. It feels pointless to send out another message now, since decisions have likely already been made. Also, I don't want to seem irresponsible. However, I don't want this faux pas to destroy my chances.

Advice? Thanks in advance!
posted by null14 to Work & Money (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'm a big fan (*big* fan) of handwritten thank-you notes following interviews (both giving & receiving). I think a handwritten note conveys enthusiasm and attention to detail - always good things. And I think it's likely that a final decision may not be made until tomorrow (otherwise, why say they'd tell you tomorrow or Tuesday?). Were I in your shoes, I'd write a nice thank-you note and drop it off as informally as possible with the department secretary first thing in the morning. Good luck!
posted by pammeke at 6:38 PM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

If decisions have already been made, then sending an e-mail can't help nor hurt you. But if they haven't, sending the thank you can only benefit you.
posted by jouir at 6:39 PM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

The decision time-frame for nearly every job I've interviewed for over the last six months has been delayed so, unless everyone else who they interviewed happened to be available when they wanted them to be, you probably won't hear anything until the end of the week at best so you're window is probably more open than you thought.

That said, I think that when they see your e-mail, they are going to know exactly what happened or make some assumptions about what happened (IE you forgot). I think you're better off not sending the e-mail at this point. I doubt that the follow-up is all that important.
posted by VTX at 6:49 PM on October 31, 2010 [2 favorites]

I occasionally sit on hiring committees at my workplace. As a committee, we review applications, decide on who to bring in for interviews, conduct the interviews, and make hiring recommendations to the organization leadership.

We hardly ever receive thank-you notes/messages/emails from candidates. There is usually a vast gulf between outstanding applicants and 'meh' applicants, and a thank-you note will not bridge it.

When we do receive them, it's almost embarrassing. I think everyone on the committee feels that an applicant should stand up on the strength of his or her skills, not whether or not they send notes.

You may be relieved to find out that a good number of applications we receive are error-ridden, incoherent garbage from recent grads. If you can rise above that (by making it easier for the reviewer to match your skills to the demands of the position), you're already in the top quarter of the applicant heap.

YMMV. My experience may not generalize beyond my industry (research) or my employer (research center at a large university). Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball.
posted by Nomyte at 6:58 PM on October 31, 2010 [5 favorites]

Seconding Nomyte.

A genuine thank you note can be be a nice touch, but it has never factored into a hiring decision I've made.

can be = not always. I find a lot of thank you notes to be insincere, stuffy and ingratiating. Those ones tend to irritate me more than anything.
posted by scrute at 7:06 PM on October 31, 2010

I'm with Nomyte. I've sat on a lot of interview committees and thank-you letters/emails are completely immaterial. I was genuinely surprised to see this question.

You've either got the job or you haven't.

If there's one really good piece of advice I would give all job-seekers, it's this: sit on interview committees yourself. Do the prep work, draw up the documentation, write the questions, sit in on the interviews. It's a whole other world on the far side of that desk. It will really help.

To give just one example, both you and the interviewer(s) have sat and looked at the job description. Let's assume it says "must have experience working to deadlines".

The interviewer(s) job, in preparing to interview people, is to come up with a question which will let them put a tick, or otherwise, in that box.

Your job, in preparing to be interviewed, is to prepare an answer to that question. You worked on college radio station, whatever. And then you just need to recognise that question when it comes up, in case it's not phrased as baldly as that.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 7:18 PM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

I am a recent college graduate and it has been absolutely hammered into me that I should always send a thank you note out to the folks that interview me. It mattered to one group, but aced me out of a position at another (the latter said that thank you notes, no matter how sincere, are trite and "trying"). Take this as you will, I think that if you do not end up getting the job, it would be appropriate to send a thank you letter THEN to communicate to your interviewer that you did indeed appreciate the time and effort they put into interviewing you.
posted by patronuscharms at 7:25 PM on October 31, 2010

Agree with those saying it probably doesn't matter. But once in a while "how motivated are they REALLY?" does become an issue. E.g., "of these two very different and only semi-qualified candidates, which is going to be the easiest to train up?" In a case like that, a note might be a point on your side.

I would frame it as, "Thank you again for the interview. Our conversation left me very excited about the possibility of working at PopCorp. I am looking forward to hearing from you later this week." It is less a belated thank you note and more a "still very interested" note.
posted by salvia at 7:56 PM on October 31, 2010

I agree with most of the rest of the answers here, that it probably doesn't matter that much. Moreover, I think at this point there's a chance an interviewer might interpret a note as the candidate trying to push them to get back to him/her faster. I.e. a coded "have you made your decision yet?" inquiry. That could be negative.

At this stage, I think all you can do is hope that the interviewers belong to the (majority) of people who really don't care that much about a thank you note, or even find them weird.
posted by lollusc at 8:35 PM on October 31, 2010

I'm with Nomyte and Scrute.

I'd refrain from sending a late thank you note as I think it would be an obvious hasty move. However, I don't think it will hurt your chances (read on).

I am a big fan of thank you notes in our personal lives, but I find them a little "off" in the professional world. At best, they seem redundant. At worst, they seem kiss-assy. I realize that this is not a commonly-shared view nowadays.

I have never hired anyone on the basis of a follow-up thank you note. I have ruled out many applicants due to resumes riddled with grammatical, spelling or punctuation errors.

Good luck!
posted by parkerama at 8:43 PM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

[Former recruiter for a niche consulting firm] Thank you notes never took anyone from rejected or hired, or vice versa.

Some of the older panelists really liked receiving handwritten notes, a lot of the younger ones found it creepy. Emails were more likely to contain follow-up information that was relevant, for whatever reason.

Send them an email conveying your interest in the the position and thanking them for the interview. Probably won't make a difference, but can't hurt.

And good luck!
posted by charmcityblues at 11:00 PM on October 31, 2010

nthing it doesn't matter. I've been wondering where this idea about thank you notes for job interviews came from anyway. I wouldn't worry about. I have a job. I've had many. I've never sent a thank you note to an interviewer. It seems almost counter-productive and a little to "Dear Abby" for any professional environment.
posted by IvoShandor at 1:25 AM on November 1, 2010

I work at a university and involved in the administration of hiring. At my uni, policy prevents people being hired on the strength or absence of a thank you note. It's the application, the interview and the references and that's it. If the job is structured enough that there's an interview, then a thank you note makes no difference, here anyway.
posted by b33j at 1:40 AM on November 1, 2010

I am a big fan of thank you notes in our personal lives, but I find them a little "off" in the professional world. At best, they seem redundant. At worst, they seem kiss-assy. I realize that this is not a commonly-shared view nowadays.

A thousand times this.

Mefi seems to be a huge fan of follow-ups after interview but it would sit decidedly oddly with me. At best all you're going to make me think is 'why couldn't you convey this to me in the interview' and you're flagging your failure to do so. At worst, they make me think "ugh, sycophantic."

What's more, I am a professional and part of that is interviewing people. A thank you note implies that my objective, rational assessment of who's best to do the job might be malleable according to my vanity, which it ain't.

Don't thank me for doing my job - it's meaningless from you. From the Chief Executive, it's good for the self-esteem and goes into a folder for salary negotiation but from you, it's just a waste of my time. I rarely if ever get them and were someone to send me one, it would be a net negative.
posted by dmt at 4:29 AM on November 1, 2010

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