The Real Secret to Standing Out in an Interview


Let’s role play.

You’re a job seeker. You polish your resume and cover letter until they shine. You submit them to a company you adore, and they call you for an interview. So far, so good.

This interview isn’t quite the Cinderella moment you hoped for—assorted wildlife aren’t escorting you into the reception area or anything—but it doesn’t end in fiery apocalyptic destruction, either. In fact, everything goes as planned: your outfit looks great, you make your interviewer laugh, and you don’t have any food in your teeth. By the time you shake her hand and leave the office, you think you may have a chance.

But something doesn’t feel right. Maybe you were a little nervous or you didn’t answer a few questions the best possible way. You thought you made a good enough impression, but you’re still wondering if there was more you could have done.

There is more—and it’s one of the most common pieces of interview etiquette that applicants miss. You need to write a thank-you note to your interviewer.

The people who decide to hire you (or not) are already looking at a talented pool of applicants, some of whom may not have considered sending a note just to say thanks. Writing that note shows that you care about details, prepared for the interview, and want to make extra efforts for the job. If the pool is narrowed down to you and another candidate, your small expression of gratitude can even tip the scale in your favor.

Did I mention that writing thank-you cards is ridiculously easy? Here’s how to do it:

1. Write down first and last names and contact information for your interviewers as you meet them (or get their business cards). Make sure their names are spelled correctly and that you have a physical address for mailing your notes. Accuracy counts!

2. Jot down at least one or two details about each of your interviewers while you chat: a shared interest, a compelling response to your questions, or anything else that stands out. You will use these details to personalize your cards later.

3. After the interview, write your thank-you notes as soon as possible—even if that means drafting them in the parking lot and mailing them before you go home (been there, done that!). If you put it off, your cards will make less of an impression on your interviewers.

4. Opt for a muted card design—glitter and wild patterns won’t cut it here. Compose separate cards for each interviewer, and write in a professional and friendly tone. Thank each person for their time, include a few memorable things about your interaction, and mention that you hope to be in touch soon. If you forgot to say something important when you met, you can also include it here. Sign and print your last name so your interviewers can associate the cards with you—and write legibly!

5. Proofread before you send. An interviewer may forget that you looked nervous or fumbled over your speech, but mistakes on paper are more difficult to erase. Your card should look perfect.

A few extra tips:

  • Thank-you notes don’t have to exceed four or five sentences. Keep them professional, but succinct.
  • Handwritten notes are best, but an email or typed letter may be more appropriate in rare cases; use your judgment.

Who knows? A thank-you card might create a Cinderella moment after all—or at least get you hired.

Have you written thank-you cards after an interview? How did it go?


About Amanda Suazo

Amanda Suazo specializes in career, health, office, and millennial topics as a freelance writer. She’s a born-and-raised Californian (but a wannabe Washingtonian), straight espresso drinker, bacon enthusiast, and MBA student.

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7 thoughts on “The Real Secret to Standing Out in an Interview

  1. Great advice, Amanda. I’d add that, in addition to including a personal detail in your “Thank You” cards, use the opportunity to point out something that you think you didn’t adequately explain or the interviewer may have misinterpreted (alternatively, you can always send an email to address concerns and follow up with a physical note just thanking the person).

    1. Avatar Amanda says:

      Agreed, Chris! Those are great ways to keep anything you said in the interview from getting muddled. Thanks for reading!

  2. Love the post, but I’ve been involved in quite a few hires in the last four years, and I’ve found that email thank you notes are becoming more and more common. At the organization I currently work for, email notes are preferred. Our hiring process moves pretty quickly, and if a letter takes 3 days to arrive via mail, you could be missing an important window. When in doubt, I would suggest sending both. The hand-written thank you note may still be standard in more traditional industries like finance and banking, but in tech and small business where hiring can happen much faster, waiting on the postal service can cause you to be overlooked.

    1. Avatar Joe says:

      One thing you could do (and I have done) is write the note in the parking lot, and leave it with the secretary that day.

      They were very pleased, and I got the job.

      1. Avatar Amanda says:

        That’s a great idea, Joe. Glad it worked out for you!

    2. Avatar Amanda says:

      I think you’re absolutely right, Hannah–and that interviewees need to judge carefully which medium is best. I’ve always gone with handwritten notes because the companies in question spent quite a bit of time choosing candidates… but better to say thank you in a quick email than not at all. Thanks for the comment!

  3. Avatar Neil ODonnell says:

    My mother would approve of this post – she always pushed us to say thank you and send thank you notes. Great article!

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