Thank-You Notes After Academic Interviews

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My sister, Maureen Crawford Hentz, is the “Manager of Talent Acquisition” at Osram Sylvania and a blogger for boston.com on HR matters.   We had a long discussion over the vacation about the value of thank-you notes sent by job candidates.   The Emily Post Institute says they are a must.   My sister agrees; she says that the failure to send a thank-you note demonstrates a basic lack of common courtesy and should be a red flag in the hiring process.   I agree with her, but the law faculty recruitment market does not.

Over the last 4 recruiting seasons, I’ve interviewed a few hundred faculty candidates.   I can count on one hand the number of thank-you notes I’ve received.   They were all e-mail clones of the notes sent by the candidate to my colleagues (yes, we forward them to each other).   I’ve yet to receive a handwritten note from a candidate.   After a full day of AALS interviews, I don’t expect a thank-you note.   But in the cases where faculty members have spent hours interviewing, reviewing scholarship, participating in the full-court press/wine-and-dine process, I’m surprised when candidates do not send thank-you notes.   I’ve asked my sister to be a FeministLawProf guest blogger and answer a few questions from her HR perspective.

BJC: Is the law faculty recruitment market an aberration, or are thank-you notes on the decline in corporate America, too?

MCH: Candidates are certainly writing them less frequently.

BJC: Should law faculty candidates send thank-you notes after their interviews?

MCH: Yes, absolutely.   Law faculty candidates should think of interviews not just as job trials, but as networking opportunities.   The more opportunities to connect with colleagues, the better.   A thank-you note also gives a candidate an additional opportunity to add to his/her application portfolio:     “I particularly enjoyed our conversation about the estate and gift tax consequences of powers of attorney, as it dovetails nicely with my own research in this area.   Your point about the synergies between teaching and scholarship was well taken.”

BJC: Should a faculty candidate send a thank-you note to everyone with whom she/he has interviewed?   Are the rules different for initial interviews vs. call-backs, group interviews vs. solo interviews, lateral vs. entry-level interviews?

MCH: Yes.   Just like you would say thank you to someone who passes you the carrots, or holds the door, or brings you a drink, candidates should say “thank you” to people who spent time interviewing.   Emails are OK, but each one should be customized—don’t send the same canned email to each person.     It’s also OK to send emails by interview slots:   At 9am you interviewed with Professor X — send her an email.   At 10am you interviewed with 8 people from the department.   Send one email for this interview, but address it to all of the people in the group.

BJC: Does anyone ever use a social networking site (e.g., writing on someone’s Facebook wall) to send thank-you notes?

MCH: Only idiots.

BJC:   If noone else is sending thank-you notes, won’t a candidate look silly in sending one?

MCH: Absolutely not.   A candidate will look polished and professional.

BJC: What’s your opinion of e-mail thank-you notes?

MCH: Just fine, as long as each one is composed singly.

BJC: As long as I mentioned Emily Post (our mother would be proud), any tips on stationery, ink, etc?

MCH: No kitty or puppy stationary, please.   No cards that say “Thank You” on the front.   It’s OK to type them.   If you must hand-write, plain cream or white with blue or black ink is fine.   Make sure to include your full first and last name, and to reference the date you were in for the interview and the position for which you interviewed.

BJC: Law professors are not known, as a group, for their social skills.   Maybe the likelihood of sending a thank-you note decreases with scholarly productivity.   How’s that for a theory?

MCH: Nice try, but I’m still waiting for your thank-you note for your Christmas present.

BJC:   What should a faculty member who receives a thank-you note do with it?   Send it to the Chair of the Appointments Committee?

MCH:   Read it for any further information from the candidate, and then send it along to the Chair.

BJC:   Are your tips on thank-you notes in any way gender-dependent?

MCH: Yes and no.   I find that women tend to be addressed by their first names in thank-you notes more. I recommend that all writers use the formal titles their interviewers have earned.

-Bridget Crawford with Maureen Crawford Hentz (guest blogger)

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0 Responses to Thank-You Notes After Academic Interviews

  1. Ralph M. Stein says:

    Thanks, Bridget, for this (and thanks to your sister).

    I send “Thank you” notes for a lot of things including having dinner at someone’s home where I’m not a frequent visitor. That was part of my generation’s upbringing. Believe it or not, learning to write those notes was part of my New York City public school education.

    As to faculty candidates, I have received a number of thank you e-mails and the occasional mailed note. The ones I appreciate are those that refer to our conversation and either add a point or respond to a question I raised.

    Tangentially, I especially like receiving the occasional thank you note from students at the end of a semester (almost invariably after grades are in so they’re not looking to influence me). I keep those notes because they’re a very real reward and I appreciate the thoughtfulness that impels some students to write.

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