Should you send thank you notes (or thank you emails) after an interview? On one hand, it can’t hurt so long as you do it tastefully, right? On the other hand, who has the time for writing these notes, especially if they are of dubious value?
It’s been this way for at least a couple decades, but most interviewees do not send thank you notes, even though the placement office people insist that they do so.
From that perspective, it is a good way to make the interviewer take note of you. A handwritten note is most effective in this respect, since practically no one does it any more and the interviewer would know that you spent some real effort in writing it.
Aside from the regular “thank you” blurb, you should include a sentence about something you talked about during the interview. The idea is that this sentence would trigger the interviewer’s memory about who you are. It is always good to be remembered, especially during the high recruiting season. It’s hard to remember who’s who after interviewing several people. If you felt that you made a connection with the interviewer about something in particular, be sure to mention that (“I enjoyed talking about our mutual love for Olympic synchronized swimming”). Important: keep it pithy. . . no one wants to read more than a couple of sentences.
If you can, jot down very quick notes (one or two words) on your notepad after each interview (or as soon as possible thereafter) to jog your memory about what to mention in your thank you notes.
The key consideration here is making sure that the interviewer receives your thank you note before s/he sends back your evaluation form. Most of the time, the interviewers are required, or at least encouraged, to turn in their evaluation within 24-48 hours (OCI interviewer usually gets more time). I don’t know how many times I received a thank you note well after my submission of the evaluation form. I thought, “I wish I had received it earlier.” Not because my evaluation would have been drastically different, but I may have given some points to the candidate for taking the time to write me a note.
An important caveat: be careful not to inadvertently write anything that might offend the interviewer or cause him/her to question your suitability as an attorney. There’s only so much positive impact a thank you card can create, even if it’s done correctly, but potentially a card can hurt your chances, too. That’s why there is a school of thought that says don’t send one. But if you keep it simple and “safe”, you should be just fine, IMHO.
Note that there is a possible exception on timing; if one of the attorneys you interviewed with is on the Recruiting Committee, then you would have more time to send a thank you note to him or her since the Committee is not likely to convene to deliberate until some time later. Also, in that case, perhaps that note would have more impact because of who the recipient is. The tricky part, of course, is finding out who is on the Committee, but in many situations there are ways to find out (we will discuss this topic in a future post).
Very important – you should consider sending a thank you card or email to the recruiting office person that you have been dealing with. Why? Because s/he is in a unique position to assist (or tolerate) you if you need help or information with respect to the status of your candidacy or some other matters. Be nice, be friendly — you can’t go wrong with that mentality.
When I used to get thank you notes, I got the sense that the job at my firm is of some importance to the candidate, that he/she is willing to take the time to do the right thing even when things are most hectic, and that s/he has appropriate business manners. If I had received the note in time, it might have had a positive effect, however slight, though it definitely would have been on a subconscious level.
You always read the advice that the thank you notes sent to interviewers at any given firm should all look different because, if the interviewers were to ever compared them, it would become apparent that you copies and pasted the notes. Horror! Give me a break, do you really think that attorneys putting in 14-hour days would sit down to compare their thank you notes from law students in lieu of sleep or time with family? Seriously?
Many folks insist that you must write out the card by hand on nice stationary card stock and envelopes. I don’t think it would make that much of a difference, if any.
But if you never get around to it, don’t feel bad. we would estimate that between 95-98% of candidates do not send a thank you note these days. Yet a note was so relatively rare that whenever one was received, my colleagues and I took note (no pun intended).
TL;DR, Send a thank you note if you can, especially the OCI interviewers, but if you don’t do it right away (such that it is received no later than 48 hours or, much preferably, within the same day) it won’t mean a thing, unless you are sending it to an interviewer who is on the recruiting committee or to the recruiting director. Don’t forget to make sure that you get everyone’s email — don’t assume that the firm website would list their direct email addresses (many don’t, in order to prevent spamming). Make sure you get everyone’s business cards.