Influence Letter – The New Thank You Note?

Posted May 8, 2012 by Marcy Twete in Career Moves

Go to a bookstore, find the career section, and open any book about job searching and you will find various variations on the same tune – but one thing remains the same. No matter the expert, no matter the circumstance, every single one will tell you that you absolutely must send a thank you note following every interview to every individual in the interview. Most experts, as well, will demand this note be hand-written on professional stationery or thank you cards.

I subscribed so faithfully to this rule that I once even disguised my handwriting as a very male block lettering to transcribe typed thank you notes to stationery for my husband, whose handwriting is barely legible.

Imagine my surprise, then, when a recent Forbes article, “Turn a Rejection Into a Job Offer” quoted a career expert who shuns the traditional hand-written thank you note. Robert Hellmann, a career coach at the Five O’Clock Club, a career counseling firm, who also teaches career development at New York University advises, you should write not a thank-you note but what he calls an “influence letter.” According to Hellmann, this “influence letter” would:

  • Address the conversation you had during the interview.
  • Address the challenges you will face in the job and how you will tackle those challenges.
  • Describe your history in dealing with similar problems or issues to those you might tackle in this job.
  • Attack head on any issues or reservations they might have about hiring you.

In essence, the interview letter gives you 300 words on paper to attempt to get yourself hired. It’s typed, ideally printed or emailed, and has a specific task – to answer questions, pose realities of your skill set, and get you hired. And while I never expected I’d change my tune on the hand-written thank you note, Hellmann has made a clear case for his “influence letter.”

The verdict: Ultimately, to write an influence letter, you must have had a very substantive interview. If your interview didn’t go well, was a total dud, or didn’t bring up thought provoking conversations, it may be difficult to come up with a page-long influence letter. You also need to have asked the most important question YOU can ask in an interview. So in many cases, an influence letter could be a great thing and a catalyst to convince the hiring manager you’re the one for the job. But if you’re not sure you can address the questions above appropriately, stick to old faithful, the handwritten thank you.

What do you think? Will you write an “influence letter” next time you interview for a job?

About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is a career fundraiser turned corporate responsibility executive, a career and networking expert and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works."