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The No. 1 mistake job seekers make, according to the CEO of ZipRecruiter—and it's entirely avoidable

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Gratitude can go a long way, especially in the job search. 

You might think that a thank you note is old-fashioned and a minor part of the process, but most hiring managers still expect to receive one — and it's one of the easiest things you can do to set yourself apart from other candidates. 

A thank you note takes less than five minutes to write, yet "surprisingly few" applicants do it, says Jeff Hyman, an executive recruiter of 26 years. Throughout his career, Hyman has interviewed more than 35,000 job candidates, and estimates he has received a thank you note from less than 20% of the people he spoke with. 

Forgetting to send a thank you note is the No. 1 mistake job seekers can make, says ZipRecruiter CEO Ian Siegel, because it signals to a hiring manager that you aren't really interested in the role. In a still-tight job market, "Employers are struggling with being ghosted by candidates, or rejected at the eleventh hour," he explains.

A thank you email could be "the thing that gives you the edge" if a hiring manager is between you and one other candidate, Siegel says, because "chances are high" that the other candidate won't follow up.

Thanking your interviewer shows that you're eager, organized and well-mannered. It's also a chance to show off your soft skills, like communication and creativity, which companies are "increasingly prioritizing in their hiring," Siegel adds. 

Don't know where to start? Here are some essential do's and don'ts for writing the perfect thank you email, according to Siegel and Hyman: 

Do: Keep it clear and short 

Your message should be no more than one page — aim for 250-300 words, tops, says Siegel. Write 1-2 sentences that address each of the following points:

  • Thank your interviewer for their time
  • Reiterate your interest in the role
  • Mention a detail you learned about them or their experience
  • Remind them why you're the right candidate for the job

On the last point, Hyman recommends pitching an idea for a project that would benefit the company, or mentioning a skills shortage you now know the company has that you're uniquely poised to fill. For example, if the company is planning to publish original content on TikTok, point out that you were responsible for managing your last employer's social media accounts. 

Don't: Write a boring subject line 

The average hiring manager is sifting through dozens if not hundreds of emails every day, many of which will have variations of the same basic subject line: "Thank you."

Approach the subject line like a salesperson, Hyman says: It should be concise, descriptive and pique your interviewer's curiosity. Here are three examples:

  • "Thank you + additional ideas for growing [insert company's name here]'s business 
  • "I've cracked the code on [insert company's focus here]"
  • "[Interviewer's name], following up on our conversation…" 

Do: Go above and beyond

The pièce de résistance of a perfect thank you email is the last sentence, which should be a call to action, according to Hyman. 

Briefly share an idea of how you would solve a company challenge. "Companies hire to fulfill specific business needs or fix a certain issue," Hyman says. "Show the interviewer that you can be the ultimate problem solver."

Here's how to do it: "You mentioned that the company is struggling with [insert problem here]. I thought more about what you said and I have a few ideas: [insert suggestions here]."

Your suggestions don't have to be perfect to make a positive impression on the interviewer, either — including them in your email shows you're proactive and thoughtful, Hyman says, which puts you "miles ahead of the competition."

Don't: Wait too long to send it 

There's a sweet spot for timing when it comes to the thank you note. You don't want it to arrive too soon or too late, which is why Siegel recommends sending a thank you email within the 24-to-48-hour period after an interview.

Hyman agrees: "If you had a great meeting with the hiring manager, you want to capitalize on that positive first impression and strike while the iron is hot."  But wait at least a couple of hours before pressing "send," he adds, otherwise, you risk coming across as rushed or insincere.

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