Post-Interview Protocol: Thank You Letters and Other Follow Up

by on April 8th, 2017

Over the past few weeks, we have offered a number of tips to help applicants navigate the often stressful MBA interview process. This final tip focuses on post-interview protocol—e.g. the development and submission of a ‘thank you’ letter (or in the case of Harvard Business School, a post-interview reflection).

Timing

A ‘thank you’ note is an important follow up to the interview, and should be sent to the interviewer, ideally within 24 hours of the interview itself. As a reminder, this entails collecting the contact information from the person with whom you are interviewing. In the rare case that you fail to get your interviewer’s email address, a simple email to the general admissions email address—with the interviewer’s name clearly indicated in the subject line—can often suffice.

Delivery Method

A ‘thank you’ note should be sent to the interviewer by e-mail. This is preferable because it is immediate; the interviewer might choose to print it out or electronically add it to your application file. The note might also influence the actual write-up of the interview—by jogging your interviewer’s memory, adding context, or providing a missing detail. In any event, submitting the note within 24 hours clearly makes good sense.

Key Components of the Letter

There are three core elements to a thank you note following an admissions interview:

  1. Thank you
  2. Reaffirming core elements of the discussion (with possible additions)
  3. Reiterating your commitment to the school in question

1. Thanks

The ‘thank you’ element of the note should be short and to the point. Simply take a sentence to sincerely thank your interviewer for his or her time and to mention that you enjoyed the discussion, etc.

2. Summing It Up / Adding Some Color

The second section of the letter, where you reaffirm core elements of the discussion, should help stimulate a positive reflection for the interviewer as he or she reads the note. It should also serve a secondary purpose of reminding your interviewer of who you are—especially if he or she just spent an entire day meeting with applicants. This paragraph should essentially summarize the key points of your discussion—highlighting something you were pleased to have had an opportunity to highlight and restating the core components of your candidacy as you described in the interview.

If you believe an essential aspect of your candidacy was excluded from the conversation, it is appropriate to succinctly mention it at this point. One warning: you are being judged on the interview itself, so offering too much content now about issues that were not addressed in the interview is dangerous.

3. Stating Your Commitment

Finally you should use the final section of the letter to reaffirm your commitment to the school itself and to briefly state your interest in specific program offerings (ideally courses, conferences, clubs etc. that came up in the interview itself). In fact, many successful letters use this section to thank their interviewer for sharing information about a key programmatic feature that was discussed. Tip: As many schools consider an applicant’s knowledge of/fit with their program in the admissions decision process, this is an important element.

Another aspect of the final section of the letter is to use it as an opportunity to note how the interview experience itself (and the visit to the school if the interview was on campus) has strengthened your interest in the program itself and served to only heighten your enthusiasm for joining School X’s community.

Length

In total, make sure this follow up thank you note does not exceed a printed page. Your interviewer is a busy person, and will not be inclined to want to read another essay. You should also recognize that while this document may end up in your application file, you can’t bank on that happening; some ‘thank you’ notes may not be read at all.

Harvard Goes One Step Further

Most schools do not require any follow up after the MBA interview; the notable exception to this is HBS. Harvard requires its candidates to follow up, within 24 hours, asking the question, “You’ve just had your HBS interview. How well did we get to know you?”

We address this “essay prompt” in our Harvard Business School Interview Guide in detail, but the advice offered above can serve as a decent starting point for tackling this prompt. With that said, there is less need to address your commitment to attending Harvard, and more focus should be assigned to the core aspect of the prompt, addressing the content of the interview itself and how well it reflects your overall candidacy.

Best of luck to everyone who is completing their MBA admissions interviews in the coming days! Although the temptation will be to relax and decompress after the interview itself, don’t forget to tackle your ‘thank you’ letters first!

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