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Great advice from The Lawyer Whisperer

April 22, 2016
Question

Do you recommend sending a thank you note after a phone-screening interview?

answer
Julie Q. Brush

The thank you note is an essential part of a top-notch candidate’s repertoire during the interview process. And without question, it is a must after each and every in-person interview. This interview tail is a demonstration of appreciation, courtesy and professionalism. And is a positive reflection of You to an employer.

But what about the phone interview? Is a thank you note customary…or required after a preliminary phone screening interview?

In today’s profession, it is not common or customary for a candidate to send a thank you note to an interviewer after an initial phone screen. Nor do the vast majority of employers expect it. Screening interviews are typically the first step in an interview process – a high-level 30-minute conversation covering the nuts and bolts of a candidate’s practice. It also provides an employer with the opportunity to assess phone manner and general personality. Time passes at the speed of light and after the exchanged niceties; little time is left for much conversation depth. So expectations for a follow up note are low.

But there are exceptions. And some employers do care – particularly when the person on the other end of the line is the hiring manager (as opposed to HR). Knowing whether your interviewer falls into this camp is impossible to predict. So my advice is to take the “better safe than sorry” path when speaking with a hiring manager – and send a brief email of thanks after the call.

Will not doing so label you as a terrible, unprofessional, ungrateful candidate? No. Kill your candidacy? Not typically. But in the event you happen to encounter the employer who does care, a neglected thank you will either disadvantage your candidacy or spike it altogether. So take the time and small amount of effort to say thank you.

The content of this thank you note is slightly different than the one following an in person interview, in that it should be uber succinct with no more than 2-3 sentences.

Examples:

  • “Rhonda, thank you for your time this afternoon to discuss the Senior Counsel position with Company X. I enjoyed our conversation and would welcome the opportunity to move forward in the process. Best Regards, Julie”
  • “Margo, it was great speaking with you today and learning more about Law Firm Y. After our call, my interest in the position remains high. I look forward to hearing from you soon. Best, Robert”

So what if HR is conducting the phone screen as opposed to the hiring manager? Thank you or no thank you?

In instances where HR conducts the screening interview by phone (which is almost always the case when an employer does not partner with an outside recruiter to conduct its search), the follow up thank you is not as professionally critical – as it is the norm in their view of the market not to receive one. But if you decide to send one anyway, send away. There could be upside in making a good impression with your go-the-extra-mile approach.

When it comes to building a successful career, the best professionals attend to the smallest details. This includes sending thank you notes after interviews. But the initial screening interview by phone is a different situation where the follow up thank you is not customary or expected. So it won’t be a professional faux pax if you decide to skip it. But bear in mind, a select few employers do care…so you may want to play it safe to avoid the risk of being sorry later.

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