Should you send a thank you note for an interview abroad?

Thank-you notes may be standard after a US interview, but that’s not always the case abroad. Learn when to send.

Should you send a thank you note for an interview abroad?

You've just left a job interview. What do you do? You call your mom, your partner and your friend, talk it through and then send your interview thank-you letter. That’s good etiquette, right?   

But suppose you have an interview in Japan, Germany or Mexico City. Is it still appropriate to send a thank-you letter after the interview? And in what format should it be written?

Etiquette dictates such notes should be sent within 48 hours of the meeting. These letters are expected, and there are some general guidelines to follow, as discussed in many job-seeking guides. A thank-you letter after an interview should be typed in business letter format and usually consist of one to two paragraphs acknowledging the interview, pointing out a few important points that impressed the candidate and restating strengths as they relate to the job, if appropriate.

When the American Way Doesn’t Apply

But the thank-you note seems to be a relatively American phenomenon. According to several Japanese professionals, thank-you notes are not customary in Japan. While it may not hurt the impression you create, it is certainly "not something you should or are supposed to do," says one Japanese banker.

So in Japan, a thank-you note for the interviewer may not be necessary. But if that job lead was found through a connection or personal acquaintance, the person who introduced the opportunity often expects some expression of gratitude, like a small gift.

Generally throughout Europe, the employer is the one to follow up.

"In general, sending thank-you notes is not as common in Germany and Portugal as in the US," says former Monster contributor Elizabeth Kruempelman.

According to one senior IT professional who has conducted interviews in several European countries, he has never received a thank-you letter after an interview from a job applicant.

The same is true in the UK, according to Paul Harvey, new media manager at Fuel Inc. and a British national who has extensive experience in the US. Harvey, who recently interviewed a number of candidates, indicates thank-you letters are not common and may be decreasingly so.

A recruitment manager at Proctor and Gamble in the UK agrees, saying, "[Here], it is not common or expected to send any sort of thank-you note after an interview."

Latin-Style Gratitude

In Latin America, thank-yous are optional. In the past, they have been handwritten but are currently typed, at least in major Latin cities. As in Europe, the follow-up after an interview is usually the employer's responsibility.

How Americans Should Proceed

What does all this mean for the US global job seeker? Americans should be careful not to appear overly eager or aggressive -- an American stereotype -- by calling often to follow up and see how the interview process is progressing. While it is not inappropriate to send a note of thanks, it is generally not expected.

If you are dealing with a US company or an American interviewer, it is probably best to follow standard US etiquette even if overseas. American hiring managers looking for a global staff should remember that candidates they're interviewing from other countries may wait to hear from you. This signals politeness and respect in their culture, not passivity or disinterest.

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