Style + Ask The Edit

The Hill Life: A Thank You Note Tutorial

Dear Belle,

You mentioned that sending thank you notes to potential employers is a do in one of your previous posts.  What should the notes say?  Who do I send them to?  How long do I have to get one there?  

I really don’t want a bad thank you note to cost me a potential job, but maybe I’m just over-thinking this.


I admit that in my personal life, I am not as diligent about thank you notes as I should be.  (My family and friends will love me anyway, right?)  But when it comes to the professional world, I am militant about thank you notes, especially when it comes to job interviews.

To Whom It May Concern.  It’s very important that you send a letter to every person that you interviewed.  If the CEO, the COO, the Deputy Dir. and the Counsel all sit in on your meeting, they all get a note.  No exceptions.  You don’t know how involved any one person will be in the hiring decision, so everyone you meet throughout the hiring process gets a note.

If an assistant sits in on the interview to take notes, I send one to her/him as well just saying how nice it was to meet her/him.  Why?  Because who else is going to do that?  And if their office is anything like the places that I’ve worked (on and off the Hill), the assistant has more interaction with the Boss than anyone.  So send a nice, short note.  It can’t hurt.

Check, please.  Before you write a thank you note, you need to know two things: the correct spelling of the person’s name and their correct address.  Best way to avoid mistakes in this arena is to collect their business card for future reference. 

Subject Matter Jurisdiction.  The most common question about thank you notes is what to write.  I adhere to a standardized formula that can work for anybody.

Paragraph 1:  Dear John, Thank you for taking the time to meet with me on Wednesday.  I deeply appreciate the opportunity to discuss my qualifications with you in person.  Our meeting answered several questions that I had about the position, and I left feeling even more sure that I would be proud to work for Senator X.

Not everyone who applies gets an interview, you need to be appropriately grateful but not fawning.  You also need to make an interview and interactive experience, not an interrogation.  Ask questions and then thank the interviewer for answering your questions.

Paragraph 2: During our visit, you stressed the importance of the Senator’s work on veterans’ issues.  Given my previous experience in the office of Rep. Y, I believe that I would be a valuable asset to the Senator in this endeavor.  I am passionate about this issue, having worked on Representative Y’s PTSD legislation, and I would be extremely grateful for the opportunity to continue working for our nation’s veterans in the office of Senator X.

Remind the interviewer what you discussed and how that relates back to your qualifications.  Why are you right for this position/office?  What will you contribute to the Member’s/Company’s goals?

Paragraph 3:  Thank you again for meeting with me.  I look forward to speaking with you in the future.  I can be reached by phone at (202) 555-1234.  With Warmest Regards, Belle

Never say “I hope to hear from you.”  Hope, as a previous employer once told me, is for the desperate jobseeker.  Professionals “look forward” or “are eager.”  Also, make sure to include your phone number.  You don’t want him/her to dig for your resume if they want to contact you.

A Question of Timing.  When applying on the Hill, I used to bring thank you notes with me in my bag, fill them out in the cafeteria and then bring them back by the office.  The mail is slow, and I don’t think that an interviewer should wait more than 48 hours to receive a thank you.  So send it the same day as the interview. 

If you’re concerned that it might not get there, send a short e-mail thank you to the folks involved and then let the paper thank you be the follow up.  Should you choose this route, do not write the exact same thing on both notes. 

Paper Source.  No pink, purple or themed thank you notes.  No flourishes, no vellum, no glitter and for goodness sakes, unless you’re Elle Woods, no scented paper.  Select a good quality ivory or white card with a simple design.  If you have it, now would be a good time to use monogrammed stationery as long as it’s not lime colored with sketches of puppies.  Simple and elegant is best.

Also, use black or blue pen.  And don’t use fine-tipped markers, they bleed.

Beyond an expression of gratitude, a well-written thank you note is a great way to augment your interview.  You remind the interviewer who you are, what you discussed, and what your qualifications are.  You also show that you are enough of a professional to go the extra mile, and mileage matters


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  1. Daniela says:

    Can you post a couple of examples of some appropriate, yet stylish thank you notes? I feel like most of the ones I find have flowers or weird designs on them.

    April 6, 2011/Reply
  2. Jes says:

    Is an emailed thank you appropriate when having a phone interview?

    April 6, 2011/Reply
  3. Megan R. says:

    @Daniela,I'd recommend the stationery I bought at Barnes & Noble when I was job-hunting last spring. It's light cream with a raised black border, slightly heavier stock notepaper that still folds crisply. At $9 for 30 sheets with matching envelopes, you can't get a better deal on nice, professional notepaper. Now I work as a fundraiser at a non-profit and I buy it by the case for donor notes.

    You can see it by going to the B&N website and typing in, “Stationery Black and Cream 30 Sheets.” It'll be the only result.

    April 6, 2011/Reply
  4. P says:

    i really think you should send an emailed thank you note AND a mailed one. you're right, they shouldnt say the same thing. but so many things can go wrong with mail getting delivered in the House, and sometimes people forget to check their personal mailboxes or it gets lost in the shuffle. and often people want to hire quickly and may make the decision a day after the interview, or even that night. if they havent recieved your written thank you note yet, and there's no thank you email in their in-box, then they assume they never got one.

    April 6, 2011/Reply
  5. Allison says:

    Belle, this is really helpful, thanks for posting.

    April 6, 2011/Reply
  6. Daniela says:

    @Megan R. Thank you for the advice!

    April 6, 2011/Reply
  7. LW says:

    I have a question about sending thank-yous to multiple people. I've been interviewed by 5 or so people at once, and haven't been sure whether it's okay to send them all basically the same note with an original sentence or two inserted for each person. What's appropriate in that case?

    April 6, 2011/Reply
  8. Belle says:

    First paragraph everything the same except last sentence. Middle pg, different. Last paragraph same.

    April 6, 2011/Reply
  9. Christianna says:

    Belle, this is VERY helpful. Would you suggest the same thing for a higher position/promotion at the company you're currently with? Is it a bit odd to send a formal note to people who you already work for and with? What are your suggestions?

    April 8, 2011/Reply