5 W’s of the PR Job Interview Thank You Note

Writing a thank you note after a job interview isn’t an option; it is a requirement. And in PR, a well-written thank you note is crucial—it’s another test of your communication skills.

Mindy Gikas, senior VP of human resources and recruiting at Ruder Finn, says whether an interview is over the phone or in-person, a thank you note is an opportunity to express your interest in the position and separate yourself from the pack.
“This isn’t the time or place to rewrite your cover letter. A few sentences will do the trick, but also remember to reinforce how much you want the position,” says Kathleen Henson, founder and CEO of Henson Consulting.

Here are the who, what, when, where and why of writing a proper thank you note for PR job seekers, courtesy of Gikas and Henson.

  • Who: Make sure to send a thank you note to everyone you met with during the interview process. It shows that you are paying attention, interested and professional. Also, personalizing notes helps show your potential employer that you do the same with reporters—a smart pitching tactic. And, often organizations reroute candidate thank you notes, so if your note is exactly same as a colleague's, it won’t make an impact that a customized note will.
  • What: In the thank you note, you should include some detail that further expresses your interest in the position, picks up on something that you talked about in the interview or conveys something you wanted to express but didn’t get to in the interview.
  • When: A thank you note should be written as soon as possible after the interview. This does not mean write a quick, two-line e-mail in the cab after your interview; this means as soon as you can give it some thoughtful consideration before writing it. An acceptable timeframe is within 24-48 hours after meeting.
  • Where: Thank you notes are best sent via e-mail. Although handwritten letters are a kind gesture, they are not the best form for a thank you note. With the short timeframe in which you have to send the e-mail, a handwritten letter just doesn’t make the cut. Also, PR professionals are on their e-mail constantly, but most likely are not checking their mailbox as often. A letter could easily sit there for a day or two.
  • Why: The thank you note is imperative because it shows you were paying attention in the interview, you are interested in the position—it provides another glimpse into who you are. 

Follow Danielle Aveta: @danielleaveta

  • Vassie

    Excellent of them to point out the time frame! I strongly disagree with ‘career experts’ who say: “write it right away!”.
    I write mine on the next morning – not only it solidifies your position (interest) but shows you thought about it. Also, as PR pros we know that in the morning is when everyone reviews their emails!

  • Mark Taylor II

    I’d add that you should write the letter immediately following the interview (so that what was discussed can be easily recalled on by your memory) and then let it sit in the oven, for at least 8 hours. Come back, check on it, and add any finishing touches, spelling/grammar corrections, and etc.

  • Rachael Seda

    I would actually disagree with the handwritten not to an extent. I think it’s best to follow up promptly with an email thank you but also send a written note the same day or the next at the latest. I think it’s more personal and really show you’re going the extra step.

  • Jane Dvorak, APR, Fe

    Great advice except the “email” part. If you want the job, the interviewer/company is worth a 45 cent stamp. Write and mail it that day. In most instances it’ll be there the next day. Take the time to put pen to paper and stand out among your peers. A handwritten thank you is leaps and bounds above an email for this 30-year PR pro.

  • sherry

    A hand-written snail mail thank you, as well as a short email thank you, sets you apart from the crowd.

  • Linda

    Great article overall, except I have to disagree on the emailed thank you note. Emailed thank yous, to me, seem like taking the lazy way out. I want to hire people with good manners. Hand-writing a thank you note, regardless of the occasion, is always the right thing to do.

  • Dennis McGorry

    I would also say that a handwritten note is a great way to go. It just says a little more to me.

  • Tony

    I would have to disagree with the emailed thank you over the handwritten one. I’ve utilized the handwritten variety and have gotten an offer each and every time likely because no one does that sort of thing anymore. After getting the job each time they my employers said the handwritten note was what won them over.

  • Steven Plavny

    The type of thank you note depends on your audience. In the tech world, it’s the norm. Hence, I’d send an email. If it was an accounting firm or traditional corporate organization (or culture), I might send a hand written note. Also, you should consider the turnaround time for filling the position versus the time required for snail mail. Nevertheless, the point is well made — always send a thank you note.

  • Gail

    I agree with the folks that say.. take the time to hand write your thank-you note and put a real stamp on it and mail it ! Emailing sends the wrong message about who you are..

  • Public Relations Guy

    I agree with those who believe an email followed by a handwritten note is the way to go. As a strategy for the prospective employee, it’s another opportunity to illustrate command of the English language and ability. When I hire new employees, I post their thank you note on the breakroom bulletin board as an introduction to colleagues.

  • Dr. W.

    I will chime in with those stating a handwritten note is best. An e-mail can get lost in the hundreds a PR practitioner receives each day or can go to spam. We get so little personalized snail mail that a handwritten note stands out and is more memorable. Notes should be written on quality note cards and be hand addressed (no labels).

  • Robert

    A hand-written note on a simple card is an expression of humanity and courtesy. An e-mail message is a reflection of a person who is focused on the message being sent, not the person to whom it is sent. It is a cold, impersonal act, perfectly fine for routine business interaction but not anything that would make an impression.

  • Claire Celsi

    Who decided that an email is better than a hand-written card? In a time where soft skills (such as courtesy and handwriting) are at such a critical juncture, why would you advocate dumping the handwritten note? If the interviewee does not have the time nor the energy to send a note in the mail, then what makes that employer think they will go all-out on the job? Don’t encourage this brand of laziness!

  • Melanie

    A handwritten note is personal, thoughtful and illustrates the character of the candidate. In this digital age, I strongly welcome these peronal gestures.

  • Martha Lou Wheatley-

    I teach as an adjunct at a local university and recommend to students seeking employment that they send a hand-written, timely thank you note after an interviwe. I take time in class to show graduate students the “how-tos” since so many young adults did not learn it at home.

  • Rick Kendall

    Clearly from the discussion, there are differing opinions on email vs. snail mail. But, like what to wear to the interview, it is always better to be over rather than under dressed. Our advice — when in doubt, do both. But definitely follow the advice to make it specific to the interviewer and the interview.

  • J Guest

    “You can make some of the people happy all the time, all of the people happy some of the time, but you cannot make all of the people happy all of the time.” Point being: Do your best in expressing appreciation for the opportunity and follow up in a timely manner. That’s all that you can do and remember, it’s work, not life.

  • Debra Lawson

    I agree with those who voted in favor of the handwritten thank-you note. Email is quicker, but the latter has the upper hand, if you’ll pardon the pun. And as Rick Kendall stated, when in doubt, do both.

  • Jon Tenney

    I pre-write three blank thank you cards before the interview. After the interview, I fill in the salutation using the same pen, and I drop back into the office and leave them with the receptionist. The interview team gets them shortly afterwards. I’d never do an email thank you or use snail mail.