Thank you notes – all of your questions answered

Every year the question about thank you notes come up.  This guide will help you figure out what to do when it comes to Thank You notes.

Thank you

Sometimes, programs will tell you to not write a Thank You note at all.  Do not worry, this is not a trick.  They are simply telling you to not waste your time.  Follow these instructions.  It reflects badly on you when you write a thank you note when you were told not to.  An important thing we want to mention is that even if the program says no to thank you notes, you should still let the program know if you want to rank them #1.  Our eBook has all the details when it comes to communication with programs.

The vast majority of the time, the program will not have a published policy.  This means the Program Director or faculty interviewer does not give you directions.  This is where you’ll have to do some work.  David and I both know tons of people who matched at their #1 choice without writing a single Thank You note.  Some people say it is a complete waste of time.  Some people spend hours at the airport writing them.

Our policy is pretty simple.  Thank You notes will never hurt you.  Thank You notes have the small chance of helping you.  Thank You notes gives you an opportunity to communicate with the program.

There, aim to write 2-3 Thank You notes for each program you interview at.  These notes should be directed at the Program Director, the Chair (if you met him or her) and a faculty interviewer that you connected with.


It’s OK to not get a response

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Take the perspective of the Program Director.  His inbox is overflowing with emails, particularly in interview season.  He will get hundreds, perhaps thousands of Thank You notes.  Most will not be read.  David and I wrote a lot of Thank You notes.  We received responses about 60% of the time.  Do not feel distressed if you don’t get a response.

The UPSIDE of Thank You NOTES

Here’s the real upside of Thank You notes.  You may get a response that is very positive.  20% of the time David and I would receive a message back indicating the program’s interest in us.  Sometimes the message is vague and it simply states “we are very interested in you.”  Sometimes the message is more strongly worded such as “we hope to see you next year.”

You can’t read into it too much into the response but the information can be valauable.  Sometimes Program Directors will tell every candidate that they are amazing.  Programs want candidates that are excited to be there.  As a candidate, you should be more excited about a program that really values you too.  Out of the sea of other candidates, the ones who wrote a nice, short note will be more memorable.

Bottom Line
You have nothing to lose by writing Thank You notes.  You have an opportunity to gain something if you do.  We think it’s absolutely worth the effort.