How Long Does a Thank You Note Need to Be?

I received this question this week, and thought this might help some readers currently in the midst of a job search or interview process. First, writing a follow up e-mail thank you to anyone you meet in the recruiting, job search or application is a must. Not demonstrating simple, common courtesy can end up costing you an opportunity, so play it safe. So to answer the question about how long it should be, I like to recommend the following approach.

How Long Should a Thank You Note Be? (Photo: iStockphoto)

Short and sweet is better than long and detailed
Keep your thank you letter to two brief paragraphs. The first paragraph of your email should fill no more than three to four lines of text (assuming normal 10-12 point sized font) saying thank you and providing a quick summary of what you talked about and one specific highlight of the conversation. This is a great opportunity to extend your brand by referencing something that was part of the interview discussion. Your second paragraph should be a call to action inviting the person to contact you again for further discussion. And that’s really it! Anything longer will probably not be read or turn your reader off.

Trade places with your reader, what would you like to see?
The best way to approach writing a thank you note is to think about what you would like to receive if someone were thanking you. This usually helps eliminate a lot of doubt and anxiety. Normally, keeping it simple, positive and pleasant is all you want to hear after interviewing or meeting a candidate, so stick to that approach, and you should be good to go.

Conservatism trumps risk, when it comes to saying thank you
If you make an attempt to sound witty in the hope that this will make you memorable, I would say don’t do it. It’s too risky to say something off the wall on paper because you never know how a reader will interpret it. Maintain a professional and upbeat tone to prevent taking any unnecessary amount of risk.

Better safe than sorry is my motto when it comes to thank you notes. While you might want to reference something witty that was discussed verbally, avoid the temptation. Sometimes verbal information translated into written form does not work well. Your thank you note should not be passed around the office as “what not to do.”

Debra Wheatman is a certified writer and career coach who has guided the professional development of thousands of clients globally. She is reachable at debra@careersdonewrite.com.