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Careers clinic: Should I send a thank you letter after a job rejection?

You’ve done the interview but you miss out on the job. Should you consider writing a thank you letter to leave behind a good impression in case a future opportunity arises? Liam Horan reports.

And before anyone leaves a comment, yes, this is a British post box. But the dog was too cute not to use it...
And before anyone leaves a comment, yes, this is a British post box. But the dog was too cute not to use it...
Image: Matt Faber/PA Wire

YOU’VE DONE THE job interview, felt you’ve given a good account of yourself, and allowed your hopes to rise – and then, like a thief in the night, the dreaded Dear John letter or email arrives.

“It’s not you, it’s me”, is no consolation.

That can be a devastating moment, particularly in the current economic climate where opportunities are rarer than heretofore. It can be difficult to believe that something can be salvaged from that moment.

What about writing to the company to thank them for the opportunity to compete for the job?

Today, I carried out a straw poll among 12 managers, recruiters and employers, to get their opinions. Ten of the 12 said they could not recall ever receiving a thank you note from an unsuccessful candidate.

One of the two who has received such letters said “it has happened, but rarely enough. That said, it has increased in the last two years, possibly due to people re-applying for jobs for which they were previously unsuccessful.”

The other said thank you letters impressed her to “a certain extent, but not enough to change my mind on the decision.”

I asked all 12 how they would react to such a note arriving on their desk or inbox.

Would it annoy them? Or impress them? Here’s what they said:

National manager in a food processing business (never received one):

I would be impressed and it certainly would not annoy me. It would leave a marker of the person in your mind for future reference, however unlikely it might be that our paths would cross again.

Entrepreneur, owner of a successful consumer business (never received one):

I’m not sure if I’d be impressed by it but it certainly wouldn’t have a negative impact.  In general, it couldn’t do any harm to send such a note.  The phase ‘’If you leave on good terms, you can always go back’’ comes to mind.

Newspaper editor (never received one):

It would impress me, if written in a manner which was not clearly excessive or sycophantic.

Production manager in a multi-national organisation (never received one):

It would not annoy me. I would be impressed and think it would reflect positively on the professionalism of the candidate. Anytime we get enquiries after interviews it’s usually where people are asking what they could have done better, where they fell down, and the like.  This is very sensitive ground in the present day with so much legislation and rights to information that employers are very sensitive about discussing anything to do with the process with unsuccessful candidates.

Retired major shareholder in medium-sized business (never received one):

Yes, I would be highly impressed by such a response, and more than that I think it would have been a great exercise for the candidate to have undertaken as they tried to build interview experience. After all, interviews (successful or otherwise) should be used as a research tool to get you to where you want to go.

Former insurance company owner and auctioneer (never received one):

I would be very impressed if it happened. It would be courteous, show initiative and no doubt any employer would probably file their CV in case of future openings.

Senior accountant in multi-national organisation (never received one):

It would not make any impression, either good or bad.

HR Manager in Multi-national medical devices company (has received thank you letters):

When I have received such a gesture, I have been impressed with the professionalism.  If that person reapplied for a role in the company, that gesture would be taken into account.

Entrepreneur (never received one):

I would just bin it – I can’t see the point.

Owner of small-sized accounting firm (never received one):

We have had on occasion a candidate contact us giving out saying they should have got the job. On our last round of job interviews we rang unsuccessful candidates to inform them that they had not got the job. Of the seven unsuccessful candidates only one queried why they had not got the job.

We would be pleased with the gesture of a thank you note and it would definitely be a plus if a job came up in the future. It would show professionalism and an appreciation of detail.

Professional recruiter, with experience of recruiting across a wide range of sectors (never received one):

It would annoy me.

HR Manager in a multi-national company (has received thank you letters):

A thank you letter impresses me to a certain extent, but not enough to change my mind on the decision.

Liam Horan of www.SliNuaCareers.com is the Journal’s resident careers writer and he’s always keen to hear your stories or ideas for articles. To obtain your free Career Resource Pack from Sli Nua Careers, simply go here. Sli Nua Careers have offices in Dublin, Galway and Ballinrobe, Co Mayo, and provide CV preparation, interview training and mock interview services.

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