Should You Send a Thank-you Note After a Law Firm Interview? Will Anyone Notice? Absolutely!

Harrison Barnes

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  • The consensus is that sending a thank-you note after a law firm interview is important.
  • Whether it lands you the job or not, there are still good reasons why you should send one.
  • This article includes a breakdown of what a thank-you should include.
  • Also learn the steps a candidate should take after the thank-you is sent.

Why send a thank-you note?

Many recruiters, hiring managers, coaches, and other professionals recommend sending a thank-you note after an interview. The consensus is that you should always send a thank-you note—always. They say not sending one is not an option—because, they say, not sending one ruins your chances of being hired. Some have said if you interview with a group, you should send one to each member of the law firm committee. Others even suggest sending a thank-you note even if the law firm hires someone else.

You want to standout? For most legal jobs, only 1 in 20 candidates send a thank-you note after an interview.

As ever-sunny Mr. (Fred) Rogers said, “There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.” The thank-you note can be a gentle reminder of that “something.” Thank-you supporters will say, “Well, it can’t hurt.” And at least that much is irrefutable.

Do attorneys get hired without sending one?

Absolutely; everyday: All things considered, the thank you might be the least important factor when it comes to screening the final legal candidate. Imagine a law firm partner saying in the final moment of the decision: “Wait. Did the candidate send a thank-you note?” The last time that was said was probably never.

Still, those believing in the power of thank-you notes are legion. They’ll even go so far as to enthuse that it can make the difference between getting hired and getting rejected. All agree that a bad interview won’t be saved by a good note, but, they’ll argue, if you’re going down to the wire with another candidate, the thoughtful and well-written thank-you might just make the difference.

As for the legal candidates themselves, they’re not so sanguine. Peruse the employment forms, message boards, and company reviews—especially for legal jobs—and note the consensus: Following up post-interview is a waste of time. And they have a point: It’s a contest with many contestants. Each contest has only one winner. Obviously, a lot of those thank-yous are going to feel unrequited. In 2018 there were 823,900 lawyer jobs and 1.35 million lawyers; this means somebody—and a lot of somebodies—aren’t going to be getting the jobs they want.

Does it make a difference if you’re a top contender? Candidates aren’t allowed into the hiring decision process. Often, when reasons for “Why not you?” are offered, the answers will feel less than forthcoming. Candidates can imagine themselves like Olaf (from Frozen) when he said: “Hands down, this is the best day of my life. And quite possibly the last.” Today may be the end of your run with the particular firm but with a thank-you at least you went down swinging with your best self.

Or, as Oscar the Grouch said: “Just because your trash doesn’t mean you can’t do great things. It’s called a garbage can, not a garbage cannot.”

At the very least, you’ll be sending positive vibes in the universe. But here’s why the whole rigmarole is a worthy, if withering, investment: You‘ll often be amazed how small the legal community is, especially in your area. You never know when you may meet these people again or how useful the connection may be. Leave them remembering you as a good sport—much better than the alternative.

Reasons why sending a thank-you is a good idea:

  • Recruiters say it’s a great way to stay “top of mind” for your interviewer, maybe even top of the potential hires list.
  • You can use it as an opportunity to add something, brief, that you think might be relevant and useful in hopes of further tipping the scales toward you.
  • It will help to extend the (hopefully good) impression you made
  • Reiterate your interest in the firm or company and the position; people are suckers for that—everyone enjoys being complimented.
  • It could help you possibly make a solid professional contact, one that could come in handy for many years down the road; at the very least you might be able to connect on LinkedIn
  • People love it when you show appreciation for their sacrifice of time and energy made on your behalf
  • People love good manners—it shows refinement, something lawyers are not generally remembered for

It’s been said that in some regions of the country, i.e. the Northeast, thank-you emails are “generally not expected.” However, they’re common in the Southeast.

Suggestions for better thank-you notes:

  • Always write your thank-you within 24 hours of your interview.
  • Make it brief and enthusiastic, not frothy and insincere; let them know of your excitement for being a part of their team, firm, company, etc.
  • Make sure your note is perfect—no typos, misspellings, and their names are all correct. This will be viewed as a sample of your writing and thoroughness as an attorney. Consider it a test.
  • Make sure to touch on the following points: How you appreciated the interviewer’s time; reference key parts of your conversation; again, tell them how interested you are in the firm and position; invite any requests for additional information and provide grounds for following-up.
  • If you thought you connected well with the interviewer (or even if you didn’t) remind them of your similar interests, points of reference, etc.
  • Make sure to gush about anything they may have done to go out of their way for you, especially if it were a lunch meeting, dinner or reception meal.
  • If you choose to send a handwritten note—some will swear by this—be sure your note will arrive within a day or two from the interview. Otherwise, most everyone agrees that an email message is perfectly fine. Don’t mail notes to government offices as their mail system and security measures will likely cause significant delay.

Building a better thank-you:

If hiring managers, partners, senior associates, etc. are, like many of us, inclined to be at least a little bit skeptical, they will surely scrutinize thank-you notes for sincerity. As they may have encountered many candidates along the way, they won’t need a bloodhound to sniff out the brown-nosing, apple-polishing, bootlicking sycophancy against sincere displays of gratitude. Also, they, like you, are attorneys. Their job is to know something resembling the truth when they hear it.

Therefore, you need to choose your words carefully and not just copy-and-paste a note from the many samples available on the internet. Even if they haven’t seen your exact version before, they’ll know the formula. They’ll know it all too well.

Sincerity aside, here’s a frame to use to construct your own thank-you note.

  • Subject line: “Thank you for your time” (or something similar)
  • Email body: Begin with a personalized greeting (e.g. “Hello Mr. Scooter,” or “Hi Mr. Scooter,”)
  • Next, for the main section begin by thanking them and showing appreciation for their time in the interview
  • Then, personalize: mention something specific you talked about, enjoyed learning about, etc. so they’ll get a feel that this note was not just boilerplate but something written just for them
  • Reiterate your interest in the position and the firm; tell them of your excitement to hear about the next steps
  • Tell them not to hesitate to contact you if they have any questions/concerns in the meantime
  • Here’s an optional add-on, but be careful. Not done right and this will come off sounding fake and smarmy: Include something to reaffirm your confidence that you would perform well in this role; explain why and remind them of the reasons (briefly) you feel you could excel in the role

For more ideas, BCG Attorney Search offers some examples for attorneys; LawCrossing has some suggestions for paralegals.

Some general sidebars:

  • Timing is important. Again: Send within 24 hours; 48 at the most.
  • Always keep it short. Always. When your interviewer opens up a long or even just longish note, there’s a good chance they’ll read none of it.
  • Keep the tone positive, friendly, and professional; don’t get overly formal or overly familiar; this includes the use of emojis, smiley faces, winks, serial punctuations (i.e., “!!!!!!!!!”), and no goofy fonts or colored type; cute will be a fail.
  • Maybe one or two sentences about what you enjoyed about your conversation.
  • To reiterate: No typos!
  • Law firms are a staid, traditional, and conservative enterprise (usually): respect that style and demeanor in all of your communications.

How to follow up after an interview: Other steps to take

  • Connect on LinkedIn: How important LinkedIn is in establishing connections and relationships may be debatable. But long-term relationships are certainly the selling point LinkedIn is offering, anyway. If you connect with an employer and don’t get the job, chances are they’re not going to remember who you are by next week.
    Still, many will say that LinkedIn does offer the potential for long-term professional relationships when you connect with someone. Be sure to also follow their firm or company page. It’s said that most potential employers appreciate connecting with you whether or not you end up with the job. Whether or not this turns into a rapport or not is something else. Many are in it for the numbers. Here are some tips on how to do this.
  • Make sure to check-in later: After a time, a few weeks or so, and you still haven’t heard back on the job, do a quick check-in for an update. Again: Simple and brief. Don’t overdo it.
  • After interview when to follow up? Firstly, unless they told you to call or text, don’t. Then, whenever it was they said they’d get back to you, wait a day or two or three before sending an email. If they don’t respond, wait a week. If they don’t respond to that, wait another. Anything more than that will work against you. If they do respond, but still haven’t made a decision, you can ask when a good time would be to check-in again. Otherwise, it’s probably safe to say you got your answer, however passively; move on.

And what not to do when following up after a job interview

The law firm job seeking experience, especially when it rises to the level of interviewing, is an emotional one. Rejection hurts and it’s not just you. (It’s science!) In that case, it’s easy to come off as arrogant or snarky. You also don’t want to appear too familiar or needy. To avoid these missteps, be careful not to:

  • send a long, rambling, or desperate sounding note
  • resort to, or appear to resort to, bribery of any kind; gift cards, tickets, or anything that could be construed as pandering will be;
  • ask to meet for coffee (or worse, a drink): it’s one thing to ask a (potential) colleague to meet in your mutual professional interests—this is often called “networking”—but it can also be construed as inappropriate or transactional attention: step very carefully
  • connect through personal social media accounts; again, could be seen as inappropriate or even stalking
  • check-in repeatedly or before the timeline given; again, it’ll seem stalky
  • jump to any conclusions: this is very easy to do—you’re in a heightened emotional state, someone has something you want and they’re not letting you have it even though you’re sure you would’ve been great
  • forget that there are possibly many in the running for the position—especially if it’s a good one—as in any contest, don’t get too invested in the decision; detach from the outcome and keep searching
  • remain friendly, professional, and confident at all times; it’s not fair that the employer has all the power and you don’t, but that’s how the game is played; put your energies where they’ll do you the most good

About Harrison Barnes

Harrison Barnes is the founder of BCG Attorney Search and a successful legal recruiter. Harrison is extremely committed to and passionate about the profession of legal placement. His firm BCG Attorney Search has placed thousands of attorneys. BCG Attorney Search works with attorneys to dramatically improve their careers by leaving no stone unturned in job searches and bringing out the very best in them. Harrison has placed the leaders of the nation’s top law firms, and countless associates who have gone on to lead the nation’s top law firms. There are very few firms Harrison has not made placements with. Harrison’s writings about attorney careers and placements attract millions of reads each year. He coaches and consults with law firms about how to dramatically improve their recruiting and retention efforts. His company, LawCrossing, has been ranked on the Inc. 500 twice. For more information, please visit Harrison Barnes’ bio.

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