Say Thank You!

Co-authored post by Karen Kelsky and Verena Hutter.

Karen and Verena at Karen’s book launch party 2 years ago.

We are the point in the cycle where clients are working on Job Talks and Campus Visit Interventions. (And getting offers—be sure and check out the weekly Job Market Digest each Friday on Facebook!)

The campus interview process is, of course, long and intense. In my book I give advice on what to wear, what to do with your hands, even what to eat (stay away from anything messy!). One issue that pops up again and again however, is the thank you note afterwards.

I am probably asked about the post-campus visit thank you note more than almost any other element of the application process.

It has also been brought to my attention that there are candidates that don’t send thank yous. Why, candidates, why?

Like the cover letter is incomplete without the tailoring para, the campus interview is incomplete without the thank you note.

Here is why the department appreciates a thank you note: Campus interviews are stressful for both the department AND the interviewee. Aside from the logistics that go into organizing a campus interview (airplane tickets, booking hotel rooms, coordinating interviews, teaching demos, campus tours, restaurant reservations, etc.), the committee is preparing for your interview, taking mental notes, and once you’re gone, discussing their impression among themselves. And usually, the deliberations afterward are time consuming and excrutiating. In addition to all this, campus visits are expensive!  So sending them a thank you note is appreciated, because it shows your understanding of their side and that they made an effort.

Here are the most important things about the thank you note:

  • Email is fine and commonly accepted, no need for busting out that fountain pen, and that Japanese silk-screen paper (unless you wish to). When you email them, use the email address you’ve previously used to communicate with them; depending on the aggressiveness of the spam filters of the university, you may otherwise end up filed in spam.
  • Whom to email: In a larger institution, emailing the chair of the committee is completely fine and acceptable. In a small teaching college, emailing colleagues you have interacted with specifically is definitely a plus.
  • Personalize but keep it short: Thank them for hosting you, if you’ve given a job talk, then thank them for letting you talk about your research on xxx. If you’ve given a teaching demo, mention that you enjoyed teaching course xxx.
  • If you have interacted with the department secretary, do thank her or him, too. As I write in my book: “They can make or break your quality of life if you get the job… and they remember. They do the lion’s share of work in most departments and rarely are acknowledged for it. Make sure you do”
  • The sign-off: Even if the interviewing faculty kept it casual at the interview with you- still remain professional in your sign-off. “Sincerely” always works.

Sometimes, you’ll receive a response, but don’t be upset when you don’t.  At this point, let the chips fall where they may- you have done everything you could do to convince them of your aptitude for the job. Do your laundry, take a walk, and distract yourself. As Cheryl Strayd says: “Do the work. Keep the faith. Be true blue. Say thank you”


Say Thank You! — 4 Comments

  1. Excellent advice, as always. One addition: wait until you get home or for a day or so after the campus visit to send the thank you. Composing the emails at the airport while you’re waiting to leave may well be an efficient use of time and ensures you don’t forget to do it, but hold off on hitting send until a brief but respectable period has passed. Same for thank you/follow up emails after an interview round. There is something a little desperate, a little awkward, about receiving a thank you within 2 minutes of hanging up after a phone interview, especially when the thank you email is full of ‘and I forgot to mention x’ and ‘I think you’d also like to know about y’ etc etc.

  2. Should you also send thank you emails after a Skype interview? If so, is it okay to send it to the Administrative Coordinator who arranged the interview and request that she share my note with the committee? Or do I need to send individual, tailored emails to each person present for the Skype interview?

  3. A helpful post — thanks! Question: Should you also send a thank you note to the Dean and the Provost after an on-campus interview, during which you met with each of them for 30 minutes?

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