Follow-Up And Follow-Through
When I was in high school and college, I ran the mile as a member of the track team. I studied videos of some of the world's greatest middle-distance runners for training tips and race tactics. Far too many times, I saw middle-distance races lost in the last four or five yards because, as my high school coach used to say, "the guy didn't power through the tape." I watched as potential winners, seemingly in the lead with less than ten yards to go, slowed down a little to ease through the finish tape. It was in those final yards that they would get passed by another competitor, losing the race by mere inches simply because they relaxed just a little as they approached the finish line. As a runner I was trained to always imagine that the finish line was ten yards farther down the track than it actually was, so I never lost a race at the finish line.
The same can be said for interviews. Too many candidates think that the end of the interview is the end of the "race." It's not. The job search process doesn't end with the interview. It is still possible to positively and permanently influence the interviewer and tip the scales in your favor.
The Thank-You Letter
Here's a basic fact of life: Sending a thank-you letter won't guarantee you a job; but not sending one will certainly hurt your chances. According to at least one research study, only about 37 percent of all interviewees sent thank-you letters to interviewers.
When you consider that candidates at this stage of the process are so evenly matched, then it only stands to reason that some little thing—like a thank-you letter—can make all the difference in the world. This is a golden opportunity for you to make an impression and to differentiate yourself from the rest of the pack.
A survey from CareerBuilder.com found that a significant number of hiring managers would not hire someone who did not send a thank-you letter after the interview.
Not only is this proper etiquette, it's also smart! It's a wonderful opportunity to sell yourself to the interviewer or the committee one more time. You might be the only one to do it, the only one who made the effort. And you might be the only one who gets the job offer!
Write the letter as soon as possible—within two hours of the interview, while details are still fresh in your mind. If you have previously corresponded with the interviewer via e-mail, it is appropriate to send your letter as an e-mail. If most of your correspondence has been through the regular mail system, then you should send your letter via "snail mail." Whatever method you select to send your letter, it is vitally important that the letter arrive before the final decision is made. If you wait a couple of days before sending the letter, you may have lost a beautiful opportunity to put an exclamation mark on the entire interview process.
Do not text your thank-you letter!
Only send your thank-you letter as an e-mail if you have received e-mails directly from the interviewer or principal.
If you send a thank-you letter via e-mail, follow up by sending a hard copy of the letter through the regular postal system.
A thank-you letter should be brief, no more than one typewritten page (single- spaced), and specific to the individual and the school. Do not make the mistake of sending a form thank-you letter. Make sure it is personalized.
Your letter should be no more than three complete paragraphs. Here is what you must include:
Express your appreciation for the opportunity to interview for the position in the school or with the district.
Indicate your enthusiasm and passion for the position and for the school or district.
Briefly recap one or two strengths and how they relate to the specifics of the teaching position or the school. This is also a wonderful opportunity, once again, to answer the question that is never asked (see Chapter 6).
Your sincere appreciation for the interviewer's time;
How you can be contacted if additional information or materials are needed; and
That you look forward to a positive response.
All that may seem like a lot, but take a look at the two examples that follow and you'll see how all those crucial elements of a well-crafted thank-you letter can be integrated.
Consider taking the time to make up some business cards that include your photo and contact information. It would be appropriate to clip one of those cards to your thank-you letter as a gentle reminder of who you are. 123 Main Street Grand, PA 19876 April 23, 20XX
Mr. Noah Lott, Principal Square Root Elementary School 1234 Mathematics Boulevard Numerical, PA 17654
Dear Mr. Lott:
I thoroughly enjoyed meeting with you today about the fifth-grade position at Square Root Elementary School. Thank you for the time and opportunity to share how my qualifications might be appropriate for the unique challenges of this position.
I was particularly impressed with the school's commitment to a literature-based reading program. As we discussed during our conversation, during my student teaching experience at Once Upon a Time Elementary School I was part of a team of teachers that successfully introduced a literature-based program to the primary grades. I believe I can bring that same level of energy and commitment to the reading program at Square Root.
Respectfully, fj'aige Jivuie*
Paige Turner 987 Highway 133 Carbondale, CO 81623 May 12, 20XX
Dr. Hiam Smartt, Principal Magnanimous High School 5678 Academic Lane Denver, CO 80226
Dear Dr. Smartt:
Thank you for meeting with me today to discuss the position you have available for a tenth-grade biology teacher. 1 thoroughly enjoyed speaking with you.
I was particularly excited to learn about the school's commitment to community- based learning. As we discussed, I have been very involved in the Roaring Forks Valley community in helping to develop educational programs, environmental seminars, and "traveling trunks" for the Crystal River Conservancy as they seek to involve more students in their outreach efforts. I believe my experiences in local environmental education programs will allow me to make a positive contribution to the Biology Department's "Community Commitment" project.
Again, thanks ever so much for your time and for a most interesting interview. I look forward to hearing from you in the near future.
Sincerely, "Duaty "rR/tadei
FROM THE PRINCIPAL'S DESK:
"The thank-you letter is a way of gently reminding the interviewer of who you are and distinguishing yourself from the dozen or so applicants who might have been interviewed for the position."
The Secret Benefit of a Thank-You Letter
Sending a thank-you letter may seem old-fashioned and antiquated. It's not! It's simple common courtesy. Besides, a thank-you letter can make you stand out from other similarly qualified candidates. Thank-you letters have three major advantages:
The letter will be a reminder to the principal or interviewer of who you are and what you stand for.
If written correctly, the interviewer will (once again) see how your set of skills, abilities, and teaching prowess relate to the advertised position.
The letter will underscore your communication skills, desire to become part of an academic team, and enthusiasm for the position.
If you have been interviewed by several interviewers (a panel interview, for example), don't just send a thank-you letter to the head interviewer. Send individualized thank-you letters to each person on the panel.
I was recently part of a six-person team interviewing candidates for a newly opened teaching position. One of the candidates sent an individual and personalized thank-you note to every member of the team within 24 hours. She was the one offered the job.
You may well be one of the few (or only) candidate(s) to send a thank-you letter after an interview. That single factor may be the one item that "seals the deal" in helping you get the teaching position of your dreams. Do it!