After you've had your job interview, conventional wisdom suggests you follow up with a second contact to keep your name fresh in the hiring manager's mind. This can backfire, however, and coming on too strong is often worse than not following up at all. As with everything else, thanking your interviewer must be done in moderation. Striking this balance calls for knowing some of the finer points of hiring etiquette.
Thanking your interviewer is always appropriate after an interview. Even if the interview ended with the mutual decision not to go forward with the specific job for which you applied, it's always possible that another, more suitable, job will open at the company soon. A gracious exit followed by a brief email expressing your appreciation for the manager's time is appropriate for such situations, and a brief but professional "thank you" might move your name to the top of the list when a new position opens.
Be especially careful about thanking your interviewer when you aren't sure how the interview went. Over-enthusiastic expressions of gratitude — especially if you're sending items that have cash value — go beyond simply thanking your interviewer and can be interpreted as an attempt at bribery. This counts against you at most companies. For uncertain cases, try thanking your interviewer with the gift of time. Time is valuable, after all, and the time you put into finding a blank card and handwriting a thank-you note can itself become your gift. Your interviewer almost certainly notices that you put real time and effort into this, and the gesture strikes a note of personal thanks that leaves things on a high note while the hiring decision is being made.
For interviews you're pretty sure went well, thanking your interviewer is — ironically — less important. It's assumed that you and the hiring manager are now entering a business relationship together, and overdone tokens of gratitude actually can hurt your position as you move toward salary negotiations. Here again, nothing beats a simple, handwritten note of thanks.
Sometimes you leave the interview with a concrete offer of a job. The salary negotiation concluded, it's still worth your time to find a way to express your appreciation to the hiring manager. Remember — the manager who conducts interviews is often the manager who handles other HR matters such as your paycheck and vacation time. Getting off on the right foot with this person is always a good policy. Sending flowers, a practice that's generally considered a breach of hiring etiquette, is sometimes appropriate after the offer is made. Send a small arrangement that the whole office can enjoy, as opposed to something for just the hiring manager, and keep the price reasonable.
Expressing thanks after an interview is more than just a gracious follow-up to a social encounter. Many hiring managers are expecting to hear from you after the interview, and it's important to strike the right note with your thanks. Sending an email or handwritten note is usually the most appropriate way of thanking your interviewer, and it can go a long way to getting things started right at your new company.
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