Etiquette After The Interview – Follow-Up and Thank You Letters

Martin Yate CPC
NY Times Best-Seller
35 Years in Career Management

A question my readers often ask “When writing a “Thank you for the interview letter” should I address the person by first name since I usually refer to them by their first name in the interview?”

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An interesting question of professional etiquette, where as much depends on the age and status differential between interviewer and candidate, as it depends on the interviewer being addressed as s/he prefers. Let’s review the essential rule of interview address and then apply it to a thank you or follow-up letter.

A job interview is not a situation where your personal preferences matter.  Always address an interviewer as Mr/Ms until requested to do otherwise. Choosing to address an interviewer by first name, without encouragement to do so, may give you a temporary feeling of equality but it won’t help your candidacy.
Some sensible rules of thumb for interviews
Only use a first name if you are encouraged to do so.
If you are not sure, ask.

If there is a generation or more between you always stick with Mr/Ms until specifically asked to do otherwise. 

Other employees using a personal form of address is not your signal to do 
likewise.
If you are encouraged to use first names with a senior person in the privacy of an interview, that is all well and good, but you should revert to the more respectful Mr/Ms at any time others are part of your conversation.

Apart from the respect the more formal address shows to a potential manager, it also demonstrates your ability to interact appropriately with the company’s clients.

Follow-up & thank you letters
Those sensible rules for interviews don’t necessarily apply to follow-up & thank you letters. While the closer you are in age, experience and status the more likely you are to be encouraged to use first names at an interview, it doesn’t necessarily mean that this should be continued in a follow-up letter; in fact you can make points by reverting to the more formal and respectful address.
Using Mr/Ms and a last name in a thank you or follow-up letter is nothing more than a demonstration of your awareness of professional protocols. It will always be accepted as a sign of personal respect and your understanding of professional conventions; both messages a smart candidate will want to deliver.
You can never go wrong by using a person’s last name in the salutation of an interview thank-you letter, unless you are very close in age and status and the meeting went exceptionally well.

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Martin Yate
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  • Anonymous

    What if you have no contact information for the interviewers, but you have the recruiters contact info? Is it acceptable to send the “thank you” to the recruiter?