What to write (and if to write) in a thank-you note . . .
August 29, 2014 9:11 AM   Subscribe

for an interview for a position that you are not sure that you want?

A few months back, I wrote this question about what kind of job I should be shooting for as a recent graduate with a master's degree and a few years of experience. Well, I recently finished my program and began job hunting a bit more intensely. Currently, I have a number of jobs in the works, although none of them feel like "perfect" options. Actually, I am not really sure what a perfect option would look like. My ideas about what I want to do with my life have generally been fluctuating wildly lately.

Anyway, because of this, I have kind of been taking a shot gun approach to applying for jobs. The job in question is for an organization that I really respect and have felt for a long time is doing really good work, for a department whose work that I find particularly interesting and kind of dovetails nicely with some of the research I was doing the past year or two. However, it is a lower level job that is probably about the same amount of responsibility as the position I held before graduate school, and is largely administrative. After stalking people on linkedin who had held the position before, it is apparent that I definitely have more experience and education than they did.

So far, I have had a phone screen with the HR person, and yesterday a shorter conversation with the department head. The theme of both of these conversations was "this is a largely administrative job, are you okay with that?" I feel like I did okay answering that question with the HR woman, saying that I was not sure if I wanted to do more program management/administration type work or more research/advocacy type work (which is what the organization does a bit of and part of the reason I am interested in the organization) and so thought this position might be a way to look into both at the same time. And in fact, that is the truth. In all reality, I don't know what exactly I want to do with myself. I have done both research and administration in the past and have enjoyed both of them. After having just finished my graduate degree, a part of me yearns for more substantive work, and would like to get back into the research side of things, but that is just how I have been feeling this past week - and a couple of days ago even, I was considering applying for an entirely administrative job and it seemed appealing to me. Before I went into grad school, I was doing administration and thought that that was what I wanted to do with my life, or what fit me best.

So, sorry about the long explanation, but I guess that the bottom line is: I am ambivalent about what I want to do with my life and what kind of job to pursue. The work of the department that this job would be supporting is super interesting to me, and I would stick around for at least a year or two if I got the job, I think, though I also think it is possible that I would feel frustrated with not having higher-level work after being at the position for a while.

In the interview yesterday, I was told right off the bat that I was one of the top candidates. Then we had a pretty nice discussion about the work of the department, although in retrospect I am kind of unhappy with a few of my responses to the questions posed, or think they could have been better. I am also a bit worried that I gave off the impression that I was less than enthusiastic about the administrative side of the job, which the interviewer asked about a couple of times. I gave him the same explanation that I gave the HR person, but he asked a couple more times in different ways about this and I feel like I was only able to muster a monotone, "That's fine, I am fine with that." He did say that they would be in touch shortly about the next steps in the process, so maybe I didn't completely bomb the interview, but I have been feeling like it could have gone better.

Anyway, I was considering sending a "thank-you" note. Do you think this is a good idea? If so, what would you suggest putting in it?

Also, okay, bonus question: in this situation, assuming that the process continues, what kinds of questions should I ask to gauge if there will be any chance for upward mobility after I have spent a while in this position? And how can I ask more about what kind of substantive work this position might be doing without sounding like I have a problem with the lower-level admin work?
posted by thesnowyslaps to Work & Money (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Unless you have serious reason to think that you might be offered a better job at the same company very soon, I think that a good policy in all job interviews is to act like whatever job you are applying for is the best job you could dream of getting. There is time to consider the job once you receive an offer. Because you presumably need money to live, it is always a better idea to have a job offer than not.
posted by OmieWise at 9:16 AM on August 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

I think you should definitely send a thank you note. Even if you didn't want the job, it's a good idea to send a thank you note. You're thanking these people for their time.

As far as whether you should continue to pursue this job, I think probably yes, and here's why: even if there's not upward mobility in this particular organization, you will likely be able to convert your experience with this organization into a diagonal move to another organization (obviously this varies a lot by industry).

As the hiring manager where they would see you in five years - is it in a more advanced position at that company? Is it doing an awesome job in the position you were hired for? Is it somewhere else entirely? My last boss straight up told me that she hoped that I would *not* stay with our organization for years and years but would rather learn something from working there and then move on.
posted by mskyle at 9:22 AM on August 29, 2014

Of course write a thank you note. Bog standard.

I will say this, if you think you could get a better job with better pay elsewhere, it's perfectly okay to turn it down if they offer it to you.

If there are more interviews, you could ask them, "I'm very interested in pursuing Blah, and while I'm sure that I'd fit in and do a bang up job in Foo position, I'd also want to have visibility into Blah and perhaps cross-train in that capacity. What are your thoughts on that?"

If it's an open organization, they'll think it's awesome. If they are siloed, and territorial, they won't. It's just more thing to think about when evaluating a potential offer.

Good luck!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:37 AM on August 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Definitely thank them for their time. You may be the only one who does, so even if you don't get the job you'll leave a good impression that may come in handy down the road if other jobs open up there.

Also, it's okay to feel ambivalent about what you might want to do with your career, and even about jobs you apply for. Lots of people's careers, even with a graduate degree, are built in a kind of peripatetic fashion. It took me a year to find a full-time job after I left grad school, and it was as a copywriter for an industry that I had absolutely no interest in. But the skills I learned in that job after a few years allowed me to move on to another job and develop my freelancing business, all of which eventually led to my career as an art book editor, which I love. So try not to be too concerned with whether you're finding the perfect fit right now; think about how it might eventually open other doors for you, through experience, skills, contacts, etc.
posted by scody at 9:38 AM on August 29, 2014

You always send a thank you note so as not to burn a bridge.
posted by Hermione Granger at 11:19 AM on August 29, 2014

I think you should always write a thank you note. But, if you feel like you can't honestly write something of the "I am so so so excited about this position!" variety, I think it is fine to write a generic thank you note of the "Thank you so much for taking the time to meet with me last Thursday. I really enjoyed speaking with you and learning more about the position. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any further questions! Best, You"
posted by rainbowbrite at 12:07 PM on August 29, 2014

Yes, send a thank you note. You enjoyed meeting with so-and-so and you enjoyed discussing x-y-z, and hope to hear from them soon. I wouldn't address the fact that you may be overqualified for an administrative job. Nor would I let that fact guide your letter at all -- if you get a job offer, then you can weigh that and deal with it.
posted by J. Wilson at 12:56 PM on August 29, 2014

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