Cooking up a Four-Star Thank-You Note

Many job seekers consider the employment interview complete once they leave a hiring manager’s office. But if you don’t follow up with a carefully composed thank-you note, it may be difficult to seal the deal. This small gesture can speak volumes about your interest in the position, professionalism and true appreciation for the opportunity to meet with the hiring manager. It also can give you a leg up on the competition.

Crafting a successful thank-you note is a lot like whipping up a meal: You need only a few basic ingredients to create a masterpiece that’s likely to dazzle even the harshest critic. What’s more, you don’t have to be a gastronomic guru to win rave reviews. While many renowned chefs closely guard their culinary secrets, we’re happy to reveal our winning recipe for composing the perfect thank-you note:

1. Use only the best. Just as a delicious meal is only as good as the ingredients that go into it, your thank-you letter depends on the quality of its content. Highlight in your note the top one or two reasons you’d be a good fit for the position and company. For example, if you’re interested in a job as a production artist, re-emphasize your mastery of computer programs such as QuarkXPress, Illustrator, Photoshop and ImageReady, and your knowledge of the four-color printing process.

2. Kick it up a notch. Mac-n-cheese is an old standard, but your version is a cut above because of the secret seasonings you add. Spice up your thank-you note by revealing a unique skill or career goal that’s relevant to the job you are pursuing. This can be an industry seminar you recently attended or a class you plan to take to help develop your technical skills.

3. Don’t overpower the palate. Adding too many different flavors to one dish is begging for disaster. Likewise, don’t overwhelm your audience with excessive information. Keep your note to one or two paragraphs and avoid using over-the-top language as an attempt to impress others. Your goal is to succinctly express gratitude, reinforce interest in the job and recap your strongest selling points.

4. Make it personal. Just as you would modify a meal for guests with special dietary needs, customize your note to the individual you’re addressing. Use the hiring manager’s full name and title on the address line, unless he or she has specifically requested you use a more personal greeting, and be sure to double-check the spelling.

5. Time it right. There’s nothing more embarrassing than an entree that’s been under- or over-cooked. Similarly, don’t spoil a good impression with a poorly timed thank-you note. These letters should be written within a day or two of an interview and sent to everyone with whom you met.

6. Serve it up on a silver platter. Presentation is often the defining factor that sets amateur cooks apart from professional chefs. While e-mail may seem like the primary method of communication in today’s business world, when it comes to thank-you notes, it’s always better to follow up with a personal, handwritten letter. Designing your own stationery is a great way to showcase your talent and express your enthusiasm for the position with style.

The Creative Group is a specialized staffing service placing creative, advertising, marketing and Web professionals on a project basis with a variety of firms.