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December 11, 2017

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Post-Interview Thank You Notes: A Ticking Time Bomb

Nothing can be more frustrating than having an offer withdrawn over misspellings and poor grammar contained in an emailed thank you note the candidate composed.

It never ceases to amaze me how many stupid mistakes are permitted to be passed on in an email. During the late stages of a search, where every move, motion, word uttered and behavior is being monitored with hawk-like vision by studious executives looking for any reason to validate whether or not they are about to make the right decision … it is imperative that the thank you note is flawless.

I’m talking high clarity, brilliant, 10 carat diamond flawless.

Nothing else will do.

This must be so regardless of the intelligence level, education, or academic pedigree of the job interviewer.

In the “old days” of “classic recruiting” (using my son’s terminology for what he calls the music I like to listen to) Thank You notes were often mailed in a letter or short card.

Back then I used to tell each and every candidate to call me and recite the entire content they drafted before mailing such.

Knowing our client’s sore points and sensitivities, I could at least prevent most of the damage that occurs when a thank you note backfires instead of accomplishing its intended goal.

This is one step in the recruiting process you as a recruiter can fully control. Completely.

Yet such few recruiters ever bother to exert their ability over the one phase of search they possess almost complete control over.

Why play with fire and leave writing of thank you notes in the hands of those who only interview once every few years?

Since the digital age sprung upon us I have required each and every candidate to submit “ … all thank you notes via email for immediate consultation prior to sending or corresponding with any client …”

Despite my diligent efforts, some hotheads believe the last thing they need is some dumb recruiter’s opinion on a thank you note and send such out to the client directly regardless.

I’m glad they did so.

The results of their lousy work now becomes subject material for this article which without I’d have nothing to write about this month.

In the past three months alone I learned of three offers that were withdrawn (they were officially made internally but never extended to the candidate) due to flubs, flaws, goofs, and general lack of attention to English grammar and elementary school sentence structure.

In one case the client stated in her email, “I can never hire anyone that careless about their grammar and writing skills. It would be an embarrassment to our region.”

This is why our automated packet of instructional information that gets sent to every candidate prior to a send-out instructs them to never email thank you notes unless running them by an IRES recruiter first.

Here are a few samples of some of the more classic botch jobs that occurred in thank you emails causing the interview process to come to a screeching derailment.

Actual Thank You Note Excerpts:

  1. “ . I look forward to being relieved of the yolk my current position is placing on my career objectives and toward joining your organization …”

    • Would you like some toast, bacon or grits with those yolks? May I interest you in some albumen?
  2. “… I was most impressed with the principals of your company …”

    • Not only did you never meet any of the company principals, but you most assuredly never will either. Try “Principle” next time.
  3. "…I’m looking forward to the opportunity to demonstrate how I can reign in the department’s annual …”

  • I’m tempted to finish this by adding ‘annual jousting event’. Listen up bud, not sure if this company is quite ready for a monarchy.

I get to see tons of this stuff - an amount sufficient to write an entire book on the subject of “Thank You Note Etiquette” as the main topic.

I believe an entire recruiter web-based industry could be enjoyed just from providing 24/7/365 Thank-You-Letter-Proof-Reading services to search firms nationally. If you’re interested, let me know. I may invest in that idea along with you. But I digress.

The fault does not lie with candidates alone, however. Even multi-million dollar recruiters and … dare I say …. national recruiting trainers I have corresponded with have sent me emails that caused me lose respect rather than gain such by the lousy prose and poor thought given to sentence structure and format.

Here is a great website for starters, which you may point your candidates to before they write anything:

www.yourdictionary.com

It contains the Top 100 most often Misspelled (that word being one of them) Words.

These are real deal killers if used in the wrong context. They are also embarrassing to you the recruiting firm.

By the way, I do not use yourdictionary.com for spelling purposes or definitions. I have found errors within the site itself. The only online dictionary I give credence to is Merriam Webster located at www.m-w.com

Furthermore, Microsoft Word auto spell checking does not help in this category unless you carefully utilize the grammar feature. Technically, none of the words are misspelled; they are simply the wrong word used in the incorrect manner.

However this list does not contain some of the ones I have come across:

Common Misspelling Correct word usually intended
Useage Usage
Reign Rein
Yolk Yoke
Mispelled Misspelled
Principal Principle
Who’s Whose
Choose Chose

Final Suggestion

As a final suggestion to help you avoid this nasty demon from hijacking your placements, try this:

  1. Formulate two or three gleaming thank you notes you know to be perfect and save to a file.

  2. The letters should be short, no more than two paragraphs, and use appropriate industry jargon familiar with your discipline

  3. Save such in a folder on your hard drive labeled “SAMPLE THANK YOU NOTES”

  4. Send them out to candidates either as a template to emulate or work from.

During the decades I’ve been in this business, I can only recall two well-crafted thank you notes which impressed me so much that I actually added them to our sample thank you note file repertoire which contains 6 of the finest thank you notes ever written by mankind.

I send the appropriate sample document out to each candidate (with all original names removed) as the example one should strive toward when crafting a thank you note.

It may be just a thank you note – but it can be a real deal killer.

- Frank G. Risalvato

Frank is a staffing and recruiting consultant in the search profession since 1987. He has contributed hundreds of articles to publish in various media, has appeared on TV and Radio, and has been called upon by state and federal agencies for expert testimony. His recruiter training services, books and kits are found on www.searchwizardy.com Call (973) 300-1010 for an exclusive one-on-one experience with his training style. His new Charlotte, N.C. direct telephone is (704) 243-2110 Email: fris@iresinc.com