Every kind of interview—phone, video, in person, or panel—should be followed up with a thank you. A job interview thank you letter is your chance to demonstrate your good manners, communication skills, and continued interest in the job. Besides, they did take time out of their day to speak with you, so it’s nice to show some appreciation. Even better, you'll stand out because lots of people don’t bother sending one.
So is it a thank you letter, note, or email?
Always send job interview thank you letters by email, within 24 hours of your interview. Some people advise sending handwritten notes, but I disagree. Some companies make hiring decisions quickly. Make sure you get in front of them with your thank you before they decide who to hire.
Does it matter what your note says?
Of course it matters what your thank you note says. Don’t bother copying standard thank you notes that say: “Thank you for meeting with me. I am very interested in this job and look forward to hearing from you.” You'll throw away an important opportunity to sell yourself for the job one more time.
What does a good thank you note say?
You can still follow a basic format in writing your note—just customize it for your conversation.
Start off by thanking them for the chance to speak with them. Then reiterate why you’re a great fit for the job based on what you discussed: “I believe more strongly than ever that my experience with X, Y, and Z will help you achieve A, B, and C.” Why are you enthusiastic about this job? Include that in your letter.
If you realize you forgot to mention something relevant, now's the time to bring it to their attention. “I’ve been thinking about your need for X, and realized I forgot to mention that I have experience in X. I accomplished Y and Z.”
End by saying you’ll call them to follow up in a few days. Most people end a thank you note with, “I look forward to hearing from you,” but that’s too vague. It doesn’t leave you any room to be active in this process. This is your life, and you deserve an answer in this situation.
Make sure you list all your contact information in your signature.
Who gets a thank you?
Everyone you speak with about the job deserves a thank you. You may have had a series of interviews with a whole team, or an all-at-once panel interview. Even if some of those people aren’t going to be your boss, they still have a say in whether or not you get the job. Make a good impression by taking the time to send personalized thank you notes to each person.
What if your interview didn’t go well?
If your interview didn’t go as well as you hoped, but you still want the job, you can use your thank you note as a form of damage control. You may not have anything to lose at this point, so be straightforward and address any problems you had, or things you forgot to mention. A good follow up note might help you correct course and save the offer. (Also—follow up with great references!)
***Learn more about thank you notes and follow up strategies (including when to call) in my podcast, Following Up After the Interview.