The Influencing Letter

A superior alternative to the job-interviewee's thank-you letter.

Posted Sep 05, 2018

Fairfax County, Public Domain
Source: Fairfax County, Public Domain

After a job interview, standard advice is to send the interviewer(s) a thank-you note. You can do better.

Thanking them for opportunity, for no pay, to have gotten grilled, can be perceived as toadying if not disingenuous. It’s unlikely to help levitate you to the top of the applicant pile.

Far better to write what the 5 O'Clock Club calls an influencing letter. Here is an improved version of what it recommends.

Dear [Insert],

I welcomed the opportunity to interview with you for the job as [insert.]  I was impressed that [Insert one or two positive things about the organization or the interview’s quality.]

I am pleased that you showed special interest in my [Insert a key skill or accomplishment that the interviewer(s) seemed to especially appreciate.]

I did have a chance to reflect on the question you asked me about [Insert a question you flubbed.] On reflection, [Insert improved answer.]

The interview suggested that you’d like the successful candidate to [Insert a challenge s/he’d be facing on the job.]  You might find it helpful to hear my thoughts on that. [Insert a brief summary of your ideas or plan.]  Of course, I might need to know more about the situation before acting but that gives you a window into the way I think.

(If true) The interview led me to be more interested than ever in the position because [Cite a key match between the job requirement and one of your skills or abilities. Or cite something you like about the job or the organization that was revealed in the interview.]

So I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

A few of my clients have asked me if the letter should be sent by email or be handwritten. In most cases, email is preferable; handwritten seems atavistic or that you’re trying too hard. But that’s merely a rule of thumb. If your intuition suggests that the recipient would prefer a hand-written note, do that.

The takeaway

Job-search tactics such as the influencing letter can help you land the job but shouldn’t distract you from the more central issues: Are you truly competent to do the job well?  Will you fit in well with that organization’s culture? For example, if your priority is work-life balance, before accepting the position, ask about the expected workweek. Some job seekers get so focused on landing that job that they fail to consider all the implications and end up being unhappy and soon pounding the pavement again, this time having to explain why you left your previous job so quickly.

So, vet all prospective jobs carefully:

  • Read between the lines in the job ad. Would you likely be top-of-the-pile? Would you actually like and do well at that job?
  • Ask employees there--your colleagues, LinkedIn connections, and review employee reviews of the organization on Glassdoor.com.
  • Ask a couple of probing questions during the interview. Examples:

            -- What makes you different from other bosses?

            -- What should I know about working here that mightn’t appear in the employee handbook?

            -- What would you hope I’d accomplish in the first 30 days?

Then consider other factors—not just the compensation but, for example, the organization’s apparent ethics, and the commute: The ever-worsening traffic can add much time to every workday.

Using advanced job-search tactics such as the influencing letter while being a good vetter of job openings greatly boosts your chances of being happily employed and of making a difference.

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