While it may be standard knowledge to submit a resume when applying for a job, many international students may be less familiar with the tradition of sending a follow-up letter after an interview.
Many universities around the world are loosening restrictions that previously limited, if permitted at all, the amount of hours international students could work for an off-campus employer. In many places where international students were previously unable to seek off-campus employment, those students are now sending out resumes and applications to businesses in their new host countries—most for the first time. That being said, it is important to know what to write in a follow-up letter, as well as what not to write.
Elements of a Good Follow-Up Letter
A follow-up letter is an applicant’s chance to directly thank the interviewing hiring manager for taking their time to consider him or her, as well as an opportunity to refresh the manager’s memory regarding some more positive points of the interview and to reiterate how well he or she would fit with the company. However, a hastily or poorly written follow-up note can be a disservice, so keep the following points in mind:
- Personalize it. Don’t send a generic ‘Thank You’ form letter. This letter is being written directly to the hiring manager who interviewed you, so reference something real in their lives when thanking them. Maybe they mentioned a project they are swamped with—thank them for taking the time to consider your application despite his or her workload with project XYZ.
- Reiterate Your Value. During the interview there may have been a number of positive interpersonal moments, or instances where the hiring manager mentioned projects wherein you felt your skills would be valuable contributions—the follow-up letter is the place to mention them. Don’t just mention you “feel your qualifications are a match for the position”, show the hiring manager you mean business and know that specific skill x will be a great asset to the company’s project y.
- Timeliness. Be prompt in sending your follow-up letter. It should ideally be received one or two days after the interview.
Writing a follow-up letter or thank you note to a hiring manager is unlikely to change the outcome of a poor interview. However, sending a follow-up letter can certainly tip the scales in an applicant’s favor and help distinguish them from a group of similarly qualified applicants. Moreover, not sending a follow-up letter can harm an applicant’s chances of success.
That being said, international students should be sure to include writing cover and follow-up letters among their application procedures for finding off-campus employment.