The application process – whether for business school or work – requires you to offer yourself up for comparison against dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of your peers, almost all of whom are trying their hardest to stand out in the crowd. Successful candidates will do just about anything they can to get an edge over their fellow applicants: diligent networking, customized cover letters and resumes, hours of interview practice.
However, while these sorts of preparations are often vital to success in competitive application processes, there are simpler and more personal touches that can make a big difference as well. For instance, a personalized thank you letter to the recruiters and interviewers with which you interacted is almost always a great idea.
It’s a simple idea that can have a profound impact on your recruiting success. With regards to format, whether a hand-written note or typed email is better seems to be a matter of debate. Some believe hand-written notes can be unprofessional, but in a world that’s increasingly virtual, a handwritten note is a differentiator that could separate you from the crowd, which is crucial in any application process.
Here are three reasons why thank you’s are so important for applicants:
In any competitive marketplace, standing out from the crowd should be a big priority – recruiters need to have some easy way to distinguish you from the multitude of other applicants, and your perfectly-crafted cover letter is probably not enough.
But a custom thank you note demonstrates a level of engagement and interest that many other applicants surprisingly forget to display, and a personalized note is a easy way for a recruiter to recognize your name in a sea of similar applicants.
The application process can be extremely time-consuming, with many of the necessary steps requiring hours, days, or even weeks to complete properly. A thank you note, on the other hand, can be written, addressed, and in the mail within 15 minutes – and in terms of impact, you’d be hard pressed to find a more effective use of your time.
Applications don’t exist in a vacuum; whether it’s for an MBA program or work, the record of your application will continue to exist long after a decision has been meted out. Likewise, some applicants will continue to live in the memory of recruiters, even after they’ve moved on to other organizations and are dealing with entirely new pools of applicants.
The world of talent acquisition and recruiting is relatively small, and a recruiter you interact with in one application could end up being the hiring decision-maker for another position months or years down the line. In that case, the memory of a well-written thank you note from a previous application process can put you at an advantage right out of the gate.
So next time you’re applying to schools or employers, make sure to grab some stationery, a pen, and your best writing cap. Taking 15 minutes to write a simple thank you to recruiters is easy, effective, and polite – and it just might make the difference in your application.
Sarah Rumbaugh is the CEO of RelishCareers, an online platform that helps students and alums connect directly with career opportunities. RelishCareers gives candidates access to employer branding and career exploration resources (including exclusive webinars). Job candidates can sign up to explore company pages, build a target list of opportunities, and engage with employers.