• Ask the Experts: How to send a thank you email after an interview when you don’t know their names

    April 22, 2009 by


    Job seeker question: I just had an interview at a company that I’m very interested in. The interview went well. I learned that I should send a thank you email after the interview, to better my chances at getting the position. The problem is that I can only remember the name of one person out of the five people that interviewed me. What do I do now?

    We posed this question to ten experts in career coaching and recruiting. Here’s what they have to say:


    Alison Blackman Dunham, Life & career expert, columnist, personal public relations consultant, half of THE ADVICE SISTERS, and the author of the “Ask Alison” career advice column

    Sending a thank-you note is a good idea, but you can overdo it. If you’ve had a group interview, the only thank-you that is necessary is to the most senior person “the boss.” In it, you can mention all the others you met with by name if you wish, or just let him or her know how much you enjoyed meeting everyone (and NOT mention all the names). If you have met for more than ten minutes each with individuals, you might want to send a short note to each, highlighting one thing from your discussion that was special to
    that particular person. If you do not remember the names of everyone you met with, the best thing to do is call the secretary and ask for the names with correct spelling of each of the people you met with. If s/he doesn’t know, you’ll know for next time that the best way to keep track of names is to ask for a business card from each person, for follow-up.


    Sending a thank you email after interviewCarol Anderson, Career Development and Placement Office, Robert J. Milano Graduate School of Management and Urban Policy at New School University in New York City

    Write the thank you letter to the person whose name you have, but write it to cover all five people you saw. Make sure it’s a “second sell” letter, incorporating all you learned from those interviews about the job, its requirements, and how you can demonstrate you fit in this organization and this role. It’s not as good as writing and tailoring each letter individually, but it’s better than not sending any; hopefully the recipient will share it with the other interviewers.

    Then learn the lesson. Ideally, you should get the names of each of your interviewers from the person setting up the interview IN ADVANCE. In each interview, ask the interviewer for her or his business card so you not only have each name, but its proper spelling, the person’s title, email address, and office address. After the interviews, sit down and debrief yourself about each, before your forget who emphasized what, so you can go home and write individual thank you notes.

    This discipline will go a long way toward helping you make a consistently exceptional impression after each interview in the future.


    Related: How recent college grads can ace the second interview

    Katharine Hansen, former speechwriter and college instructor who writes for Quintessential Careers, edits QuintZine, an enewsletter for jobseekers, and prepares job-search correspondence as chief writer for Quintessential Resumes and Cover Letters

    Call or e-mail the administrative assistant of the one person you remember. Explain the situation. Express your embarrassment, and ask for the names of the other people you interviewed with. Be sure to get correct spellings. Ask the assistant to keep your inquiry in confidence. Next time, be sure to request business cards from each person you interview with.


    Yvonne LaRose, Career and professional development coach, Career and Executive Recruiting Advice

    I’ve said it in the past and I stand my ground. No matter when the interview occ

    urred, Thank You Is Good. Here, you have a little bit of a twist on situations. Not only has a little time elapsed, but you — like many others — are not a person who remembers names. My recommendation is to sit down and sketch out the things that happened during the interview. Try to remember the face of the person who asked you particular questions at each juncture and each office. Make notes about which office you were in and its location, who was in it and what that person looked like.

    If after reviewing these notes you still have difficulty coming up with at least a first or last name, call the company’s main number. Talk with the receptionist and tell that person you want to send a thank you note to your interviewers but you’re having difficulty with remembering the titles for the people you saw.
    Chances are, the receptionist will more than understand. A lot of faces and names in a short period of time can be overwhelming, especially when combined with all sorts of other complex information that needs examination and sorting. If you mention the people you met, the departments for which they’re
    responsible, and provide a brief description of them, the receptionist should be able to help you out.

    A second alternative is to ask for the Human Resource manager who introduced you to the first person you met. Thank the manager for arranging the meeting and explain that you’d like to send a thank you note to each of your interviewers but need their correct titles so that you can do so. Be certain to
    include the HR manager among the notes you send.


    Related: How to answer the 5 most basic interview questions

    Ask for business cards after an interviewLinda Wyatt, Career Center Director, Kansas City Kansas Community College

    You really have two choices:

    • Send a thank you note to the person who’s name you have, but in it
      thank the group for taking the time to interview with you and ask the
      recipient to share the note with the other interviewers.
    • Call the company and ask for the names of the individuals who conducted your interview.

    You can learn a good lesson from this experience. Always make sure you get the names (with correct spelling) of everyone who interviewed you. One way to do this is to ask if they have a business card. You can also jot their names down on a pad that you carry.


    Tracy Laswell Williams, Certified job and career transition coach, accredited resume writer and founder of CAREER-Magic.com

    Call the person whose name you did remember, tell him that you were a bit nervous, so you forgot to get everyone’s business card (hint hint for next time…). Ask if you could have the names and titles of those with whom you met so that you can send an appropriate note of thanks.  All thank you notes should be different, and should also be used to restate your strengths as a candidate and enthusiasm for the job, the team, and the company.


    Marcia Merrill, Assistant Director for Career Development and Placement Center at Loyola College in Maryland

    As for sending a thank you letter to the interviewer-Most definitely you should do so! This is a typed, professional business letter, not a handwritten note, Although some may argue that point-this is what I tell my students/clients based on what employers tell me. By sending the thank you letter-you’ll be in the minority, many job seekers forget to do this-might think, “why bother?” I say-“why not?!” Sending a thank you letter is a common courtesy! It shows your follow up/organizational skills, and serves as a reminder to the interviewer of you and your interest and match to the company’s needs. The thank you letter gets your name in front of the interviewer’s face one more time!

    Here’s an example of a possible thank you letter and how to handle the not knowing all the names!


    Thank you for meeting with me. I enjoyed our discussion about X and upon reflection feel my background and skills in X would contribute to your company. I am convinced I am the person for your position as X! Please convey my thanks to the other members of the interview team. I look forward to hearing from you. Thanks again!

    Also, you want to have someone else look at this-always have another pair of eyes proofread. Go to your Career Center!

    For trying to find out the names, here are a few suggestions: You might check the company’s web site-they may have a link to Directory-this may help jog your memory-but only if you’re absolutely certain, should you use those names in your thank you letter or send separate letters to each…You might also call the one you do remember and ask for the full names of the others-this is the time to inquire how the search is going and if they’ve made their hiring decision…All of this takes time. You want your thank you letter to be sent out in a timely fashion-NOT a month later! Maybe a week or so at most.


    Write a thank you letter after your interview

    Susan Strayer, Assistant Director, Career Services, School of Professional Studies in Business and Education at the Johns Hopkins University and founder and President of University and Career Decisions

    Sending thank-you notes is an absolute must in any job market. A handwritten note or electronic thank-you gives you the opportunity to flatter the interviewer and sell yourself one last time. Unfortunately, you are out of medicine here. While forgetting names can be as chronic as a common cold, the memory lapse in your situation isn’t as curable. Here are your few options:

    • Do nothing at all: sometimes the process moves quickly and/or the
      interviewers might have been impressed with your skills and abilities
      regardless of your follow-up.
    • Send a thank you note directly to the HR department: in the note, convey
      your thanks to the “interviewing team”–if you’re sending by email, use a
      creative subject line so the email doesn’t get mixed in with resume
    • Do some research: get online and see if you can use Hoovers, Standard and
      Poors, or the company’s website to find out who holds particular roles (do
      not send a thank you to one interviewer, if you cannot find all of the
      names/contact information, go back to #2).
    • Call the company: if you have names of individuals, but no contact
      information, call the front desk and say “I am trying to follow-up with
      Jennifer Jones by email and I must have her email address wrong, do you have
      it by chance?”

    Most importantly, you’ve got to practice some preventative medicine for next time! At the end of an interview, always thank the interviewer and ask for his/her card. If a business card is not available, ask for contact information and write it down immediately (make sure you have a pen and pad/portfolio.) Remember, leaving an interview without the names or business cards of your interviewers is like not wearing a coat when it’s below freezing–never a good idea at any time.


    Steve Levy, Principal of Outside-the-box Consulting

    Let’s take care of the first problem – you didn’t ask for business cards nor were cards offered. Interviews are stressful for all involved parties – most hiring managers and other interviewers do not receive sufficient (or any) interview training and most candidates do not practice enough (or at all). Fifty lashes with wet resumes for everyone!

    Despite what others might say, honesty works well in all situations. Contact the person who arranged the interview schedule – or the name of the person whose name you do remember – and offer a mea culpa. Everyone forgets a name or two – or four. The positive and negative excitement of an interview can work to diminish critical skills such as memory and social graces. Interview success goes back to the adage, “perfect practice makes perfect.” So next time, practice asking for business cards or asking for the spelling of the interviewers’ names.

    Now, let’s look at a larger issue – how does one put one’s best foot forward during an interview. You can do your research, wear your best power clothes, have the greatest resume – and forget to talk about that one great thing that would probably put you over. One solution is to bring in a cheat sheet and lay it right out on the table for all to see.

    A cheat sheet for interviewing is nothing more than a meeting agenda with a numbered list that includes everything related to the interview: Points about yourself that you want covered, questions about the job and company, and all those “little things” that can make or break an interview – like asking for business cards. As each point is covered during the interview (or set of interviews in which case you’ll bring an agenda for each interview), cross it off the list. The end result is positive: You come across as prepared, detail oriented, and professional. Perhaps the next time you meet the group, they’ll have their own lists to guide them.


    Janine A. Schindler, Professional Coach and owner of the Jas Coaching Company

    Congratulations on doing well on an interview with a company you’re interested in! The idea of the follow-up/thank-you letter is to foster their interest in you. The more people you contact post interview the more people you will have on your team. There are several ways to find the names of the people you met. You can contact the person who set the interview up and ask them to find out, contact the company’s receptionist/secretary, or check with their human resource department. If all else fails you can also contact the person whose name you do have and apologize for not recalling the names of the additional people you met with. This will also give you a chance to reconnect with this person to reinforce your interest and clarify any outstanding concerns. Most important is to remember that every letter must be unique. If you pick up the letter and read it without looking at the person’s name and company it should be clear to whom this letter was drafted. What you have experienced has happened to many people before you. Always carry something with you to jot down names and important pieces of information from the interview. This is your time to learn about them – not just for them to learn about you. Taking notes will help prevent the day from turning into a blur.

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