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7/10/16 - 5 ways your thank-you note could lose you the job

LILY ZHANG for The Muse 

Let's be honest: When it comes to applying for jobs, the "it can't hurt" benchmark is often the deciding factor over whether or not to do something. Sending a cover letter? It can't hurt. Finding your interviewer on LinkedIn? It can't hurt. Sending a thank-you note? It can't hurt.

Or can it?

Actually, yes, it absolutely can. Here are just a few scenarios in which sending a thank-you note might hurt your chances of landing the job.

1. It's full of typos

If you're really serious about a job, you probably had your resume and cover letter reviewed by a couple other people before you hit submit. But even the most careful job seeker can make mistakes during the high that comes after a successful interview. Don't blow your carefully crafted image, and double-check to make sure that your thank-you note is typo-free.

2. It's a week late

Another good impression killer is sending your note in late. Thank-you notes are the most effective when you send them ASAP or at least within 48 hours of your interview. If you want to leave the impression that you're only mildly interested in the position, then go ahead and take your time. If not, then send it immediately. As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words.

3. It's generic

You might think that going through the motions and sending a generic thank-you note is better than sending nothing, but you'd be wrong. Hiring managers get excited when they find exceptional candidates who are really excited about the job. And sending a boring thank-you note that could have been addressed to anyone? That's an easy way to shatter your image.

Oh, and don't think you can just write one spectacular thank-you note and send it to all the different people you interacted with during the interview. Many companies request that thank-you notes get forwarded to HR so they can be attached to a candidate's file. Having the same five notes on file probably won't help you land the job, so take the time to actually personalize some aspects of your message. It's worth it.

4. It's just a way to talk about yourself more

Did you forget to mention that one time you did something that was extremely relevant to the job you're interviewing for now? Think the thank-you note is the right place to share this relevant experience? It might be okay to mention it briefly, but it's definitely a mistake for you to transform your thank-you note into a second take of your interview. Thank-you notes shouldn't be long, so you don't really have a lot of space to, you know, thank your interviewer — let alone share another story. If you must do it, make it brief.

5. It's inappropriate

You don't have the job yet, so don't get too chummy in your note. No matter how sure you are that you nailed the interview, your best bet is to remain professional throughout the process. (That means no nicknames, no sarcasm and definitely no cursing.)

I've gone on and on about the various ways sending a thank-you note can hurt your chances of getting the job offer, but naturally the biggest thank-you note blunder would be to not send one. So, please send a thank-you note after your interview — just make it great.

About The Author

Lily Zhang serves as a Career Development Specialist at MIT where she works with a range of students from undergraduates to PhDs on how to reach their career aspirations. When she's not indulging in a new book or video game, she's thinking about, talking about, or writing about careers. Follow her musings on Twitter @lzhng.