Letters to Whom it May Concern: Always Thank Your Interviewer
Writing thank-you letters gets you the job; not doing so causes employers to shun you. School doesn't prepare you for that. Having social relationships with professors is discouraged, as they are mostly disconnected from their students. In our culture, who writes letters anymore? We send emails and leave voice mail messages, as often that is the only contact information that is exchanged. Is the mailing address of the interviewer made known anywhere? What sort of relationship can you expect to have with a potential employer that doesn't make you wish you were dead if they reject you?
Proper interview etiquette is one of several topics on which there are many differing opinions. Some of this advice is obvious, such as having good manners in general. However, different employers are looking for different kinds of people to fill their empty positions, and it depends as much on personality as much as it does on competence. Advice articles found on Monster.com and the like reveal that employers usually make their decisions based on the first few minutes or even seconds of their interview with you, which doesn't give you much time to make the professional impression you want to project. After it's over, you may find yourself in a daze, and you know you're certainly not the only person they've talked to, whether you were the first, middle, or last candidate of the day. A thank-you note [or two or more if you have to make it through several rounds of interviews] is a good way to remind prospective employers of who you are and another demonstration of good manners to boot, even if the practice has fallen out of the cultural norm (form rejection letters from said employers don't count). Voice mail messages and emails, which are the cultural norm of today, do not seem to cut the mustard in this arena. In my experience, voice mail often goes unanswered, and even if you reach a live person, they will forget about you the moment they hang up despite what you say. Always get it in writing.
Letter-writing is a lost art. I seem to remember practicing it in school but never had occasions to write many back then (and the few I did write to my peers went unanswered; to get their responses almost always required instant messaging). Not much emphasis was placed on their significance save for their contribution to high marks, which got you into college which got you the job you wanted (except they don't). Thus, I was brought up to believe that if you work hard you will be rewarded; my social game was nigh non-existent. Unfortunately for me, this seems to be the norm - your social game is everything. Academic achievements are hollow and meaningless victories that only last as long as the high school glory days of a jock. References are important, but I have found them increasingly difficult to get during college. Most professors are disconnected from their students and don't like anyone getting close (some high school teachers are like that too, but not many). There are also politics involved, meaning that you have to choose your references carefully from highly regarded members of any given field. Adjuncts are not considered as highly as full-time grad professors, but they will also know you the best (most grad professors are some of those who are disconnected unless you are fortunate enough to take more than one of their classes, preferably at the same time). Any given person can be hard to reach by any means, let alone the preferred means of the potential employer.
Monster articles also recommend to do research on the companies you apply to before the interview. While they usually mean you should look up background information about a business, directions to the facility and means of contacting your interviewer (if you know his or her name beforehand) will also come in handy. No matter the contact information the company web site provides, make sure you know how to properly send a letter to the person who will be interviewing you. Failure to do so may mean the difference between a yes and a no. While it is painful to put your hopes and dreams on the line and in the hands of any one person who does not have to care about them or you, being a social creature and having impeccable manners will leave a lasting impression, even if you wind up getting your heart broken.
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