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I've recently been performing a number of interviews, and many of the candidates send follow-up emails just to say "thank you". My question is, what's the best way to respond? All of the following seem bad:

something like "thanks, nice meeting you, cheers"

Too short.

something like "Looking forward to working with you in the future"

Seems to me to be too indicative of a positive outcome, which hasn't been decided yet.

"best of luck with future work"

Seems to me to be too indicative of negative outcome, which again hasn't been decided yet.

I should note that I'm not the only one making the decision—there are a number of interviewers, and I'm going to be one of the people providing feedback to the ultimate decision-makers. Any suggestions?

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    Why respond at all? I would note the good manners of the gesture and contact them when I have made my final decision. – maple_shaft Apr 27 '12 at 14:20
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    @eykanal - If you are not prepared to give them a personal response, when you make a decision, do not give them a response. They are sending you these emails as a means, to highlight their strengths, although your examples are likely from applicants unlikely to be choosen ( except the first one ). If you are not prepared to tell them the reason they were not choosen at the end of the process its best not to respond. I can tell you from personal experience that there is nothing more frustrating then getting a response from somebody I wanted to work with who simply says "You were not choosen" – Donald Apr 27 '12 at 15:17
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    But then, have you thought about how they should respond to your response? – Thomas Bonini Apr 27 '12 at 19:51
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    @albert: maple_shaft's answer was that he would contact the interviewee when the decision had been made. I agree with you that no response at all is just rude. – user145 Apr 28 '12 at 13:10
  • meanwhile, in the real world... no response is frequent. It's wrong and it sucks. But it happens and it's happened to me after full day interview meetings too. Accept and move on. – Michael Durrant Aug 2 '12 at 3:18
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In situations in which I am on a committee, and I receive thank you notes from individuals, I do not respond. The only instance in which I would respond would be if I were the committee chair.

When I do respond, as either committee manager or as an individual interviewer (when there's no committee), I keep my acknowledgement brief (and I only respond if it's an emailed thank-you): "Thank you for your interest, and for taking the time to talk with us about the position. Our decision timeline is..."

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    +1 - generally I don't respond (and I don't expect people to respond to my follow-up "thank you for the interview" letter), but if I did this is how I'd handle it. – voretaq7 Apr 27 '12 at 17:44
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Thank you notes are considered a one way message with no requirement or expectation of a response when received. They are a token sign of grattitude and a last attempt to make a postive impression on the interviewer.

Unless of course the sender asked you a question or made a statement that you decide you would like them to explain more.

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    Indeed. "Thank you for your thank you note." ... "Thank you for thanking me for my thank you note." ... "Thank you for..." The rabbit hole gets deep fast. – BittermanAndy Jan 31 at 16:32
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I hit this one too - I've stared at a blank page for up to 20 minutes thinking "geez, a simple "your welcome" should not be so hard!"

I agree that 2 out of 3 of your samples are too indicative. Sadly, in this day and age, it seems we have to be very careful at anything that sounds like a commitment.

Here's some stuff I've felt OK with:

  • I enjoyed speaking with you, as well, thanks for following up! - and I have some permutations of these that are less positive in cases where it really wasn't great speaking with the person (in fact I wanted that hour of my life back) - things like "it's always enlightening to get to meet new people".

  • Adding in more details about the follow up process - particularly if we did not have that conversation at the interview (frequently I let HR do it).

  • Answering any factual questions asked, or providing more info about a discussion point. My absolute favorite candidates are always people who prompted me to go do some research or thinking about the topics (this is like the top 10% people), and so I may mail back with - "you got me thinking about X, did you know about Y?" NOTE: These people are probably so awesome that I want to keep in touch, even if they don't come to work for me... networks are good!

Things I avoid:

  • any positive or negative impressions that could later evoke some presumption on the candidate's part
  • any feedback on the interview - I leave that to HR.
  • any information about other candidates, or my opinions on the hiring process, or the relative urgency of filling the position.
  • This is exactly why the best response is no response. – TonyK Jan 31 at 17:32
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I generally don't return them unless I am very sure we are going to offer him the position.

These things have a way of changing at the last minute. Some other manager vetoes it, HR finds some background questions at the final step, etc, etc.

I have replied positively a few times in the past and have them come back to bite me in the behind.

OTOH, I sometimes reply to those that I know WON'T make the cut and offer advice if I think they need/appreciate it. Some of them aren't doing resumes right and I think the advice might help them with another job application.

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Just to add one more approach for those who hit this problem in the future, in the end I just wrote a simple, neutral reply:

Dear <person>:

Thank you for your note, I enjoyed meeting with you. <my boss> will be getting in touch with you shortly regarding the position.

Be well,
<me>

  • What happens if the boss or hr doesn't contact the folks who weren't hired? – RoboKaren Sep 17 '16 at 7:48
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    Then you/your boss didn't do your job and deserve a spanking. – eykanal Sep 18 '16 at 15:29
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If the feedback is negative don't reply (Have HR tell him)

If the feed back is good, let him know you guys are interested.

It was a pleasure meeting you as well, Carol will be getting back you shortly regarding next steps.

  • I'm sorry, I didn't explain myself clearly... see the added text at the bottom of the question. I'm not the only one doing the interviewing, so I can't make this kind of statement. – eykanal Apr 27 '12 at 13:40
  • And then what do you do when an even better candidate comes through and snags that position? – IDrinkandIKnowThings Apr 30 '12 at 17:30
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As someone who sends thank you notes I really like getting a response just to know they in fact got my note. A simple it was nice meeting you and thank you for your interest in our company. The successful candidate will be contacted in the next few days. I believe it's a great response. Its simple polite and doesnt give anything away. Since only 20 percent of individuals send these after interviews it's really nice to get a response.

  • Hey there welcome to The Workplace. Would you mind clarifying how this answer is different and covers different approaches than the ones already provided? Currently I feel it repeats what others have stated... – DarkCygnus Jan 31 at 18:02

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