Sunday, December 12, 2010

Is it Really So Hard to Say Thank You?

Here in Israel we’ve said a couple of big thanks over the past week, both present day and biblical. The terrible recent fire in the northern part of the country overwhelmed the local fire departments and many countries from near and far came and provided tremendous assistance. The fire caused a lot of damages (estimated at one-third of the forest areas of the Carmel region), but I understand that without this international help the damage might well have been double this. After the fire was contained, our Prime Minister Bibi publicly and graciously thanked the governments that were available in our time of need as well as the firefighters themselves that traveled here and risked their lives to put out the flames. A totally different thank you technique was displayed by the Israeli foreign ministry, whose representative spent the majority of the time reminding listeners how good Israel has been in the past to help others in crisis (which is certainly true), and then sequenced into a thanks that other countries came to our aid as well; in my opinion a less self-serving message would have been more appropriate and effective. In the synagogue last Shabbat, Jacob thanked/blessed Pharaoh for allowing the Jews to live in Egypt during the famine. I certainly hope that the thanks that the modern day Israel gave to Egypt this week for assisting to put out the fires will lead to a better relationship than our forefathers encountered in Ancient Egypt those many years ago!

Now, I hope my transition to employment will be less painful here than listening to a foreign ministry expression of gratitude…

In the US, it is quite common that after an interview, a job candidate will send a thank you note to the person that conducted the interview. Certainly this is not an altruistic act entirely – on the one hand it can make sense to show appreciation for the person that invested time and efforts in interviewing you, but usually the motivation is more “me-based” – raising your visibility in the recruitment process and distinguishing yourself from other candidates. What I have noticed in Israel is that the simple thank you note is almost totally ignored by job seekers. I am not quite sure why this is true, and I certainly wouldn’t associate this with a cultural trait of the local population. Anyway, the more interesting point is not the why, but whether it is useful for a job candidate in Israel to send such a note. In Israel, they may have an even more positive impact than in the US, as the local interviewer may well be getting such a note from you and no one else. I certainly can’t see the harm in it and there is definitely a potential up-side, and if nothing else, it will force you to make an effort to get the interviewer’s name and contact details (something which never ceases to amaze me many people leave an interview without).

So, what should be in this thank you noted, generally delivered by email? The combination of expressing gratitude for the interviewer’s time and the opportunity to better discuss the position and your suitability together with a reminder of what a good fit you are and strong interest you have is ideal. Of course, thinking about the best language to compose such a message is also relevant, depending upon who the interviewer was. It shouldn’t be long, and certainly not a recap of your CV or the interview in its entirety, just a few short sentences that get your point across.

Wishing you great success in your job seeking efforts and heartfelt thanks for taking the time to read this article.


  1. I am astonished that you are surprised that it is not common for job-seekers in Israel to send thank you notes to potential employers. It is also expected that no thank you notes will be sent for wedding presents, birthday presents, or anything else. If not for a wedding present, then why for a job interview?

    hoping for better and looking forward!


  2. With all due respect, if companies and organizations can't be bothered to even send a short note to tell you that they got your CV but decided you weren't chosen to be called in for an interview, or worse, to inform you that they decided to choose someone else after they did interview you, then why should I thank them for calling me in to talk to them? Hell, there were some interviews where they actually asked me to send them something from home - which I did - and they STILL didn't let me know that they weren't going to hire me! It is a two way street. I'm the one not earning any money so why should I be wasting bandwidth and time to thank them, when they're getting paid to ignore me?

  3. Hi Ron...for me the issue is very clear. This whole "thank you note" is of course not a message of thanks at all. The company needs an employee, and so they have conducted an interview, for their own benefit (it was not an altruistic act, and the fact that it benefits you is not why they conduct it), so while you might be thankful to your own hard work, to your luck, or to God that you managed to get an interview, you owe the interviewer themselves no thanks at all. If you send a "thank you note", it is clear that it is just a ass-kissing gesture designed to get the interviewer to like you, and to stand out from the crowd. And I think that this is why the israelis dont tend to send these notes...Because it is so unheard-of to do so, it would just seem ridiculously fawning to do so. But for me this dovetails with something wider about the whole interviewing process. It reminds me of how long it took me to get over the fact that you are expected to call to check "if my CV has been recieved" after you have emailed it. I remember feeling such an idiot when I first did it. You know that your CV has been recieved. It was sent by email. It could hardly have got "lost in the post". And you know that the boss couldn't be bothered getting back to you which is why you had to call them. And you know that the boss knows all of this; knows that you are essentially lying... for me, this whole "checking to see if the cv has been recieved" and "thank you notes" is part of a humiliating culture in which those who have the jobs have to be fawned to in the most disgusting way.

  4. Thank you for taking the time to comment. I understand that some people are using different criteria than I am in order to decide whether to send a thank you note to an interviewer. My thoughts were very narrow and concentrated on one question: Will this action help me move forward in the recruitment process? Certainly if that is the question, then the act itself is the opposite of altruistic, it is totally concentrated on ME, whether it can make a positive impact. If you believe that there is more likelihood that it will cause damage rather than assist you, then certainly it is a mistake to send. I wonder what others think...