Writing a well-crafted thank-you email following a job interview can give you a positive boost. It shows you're an organized, courteous, eager, and savvy professional.
But failing to send one can be a rookie mistake. Most employers expect a sincere thank you—and the indifferent few will only appreciate the extra effort, keeping you on their radar.
[See The Best Jobs of 2012.]
According to Steve Langerud, a workplace consultant and director of professional opportunities at DePauw University, "Not sending a thank you says, 'I just don't care.'"
If you want to seal the deal with a killer thank you, then you should never:
1. Start with 'Hey.' It's too informal. "Any thank you that starts with 'Hey...' is doomed," Langerud says. Other informal phrases to avoid: "thanks in advance," and "hope to see you soon."
2. Address multiple people. Sending one generic email to all of your interviewers might be efficient for you—but employers see it as dull and impersonal. In fact, "multiple interviewers in the same company will often compare notes, so be sure they are customized," says Lynne Sarikas, director of the MBA Career Center at Northeastern University.
3. Write an essay. Your note should take less than a minute to read—a few sentences max. Remember, at this point, "There is no need to try and convince them that you are great," Langerud says.
4. Use a generic template. The more personalized the better. Langerud says the best way to do this concisely is to "write about one specific thing from the interview that actually meant something to you or made you think." Then, remind them of a relevant skill that makes you a perfect fit—and, of course, thank them for their time.
The more specific you are, the faster you'll jog their memory. Langerud says, "a thank you note is an impression that lingers. Linger well."
5. Let more than a day pass. Your thank-you email should be in your "sent" box no later than 24 hours after an interview—no exceptions. Also consider sending a handwritten note that would arrive to the hiring manager a few days later. Contrary to its nickname, "snail mail" can be reasonably fast, as long as it's in your courier's hands within 24 hours of the interview. The bottom line is that you should follow-up ASAP to reiterate your interest while you're still fresh in the interviewers' minds.
Conflicted on whether to send a handwritten note? Sending a legible one in addition to your email adds an extremely personal touch. As Langerud says, "nothing says 'remember me' like a little extra effort." Sarikas agrees. "Few people write handwritten notes anymore—they are memorable," she says.
If you do send a snail-mail note, make sure that its content isn't repetitive. The email should be a brief token of gratitude, while the handwritten thank you is a little more formal and includes the three points mentioned in No. 4.
[In Pictures: 10 Ways Your Email Could Kill Your Job Chances.]
6. Get names wrong. Obvious, right? But too many employers complain of misspellings or incorrect names from candidates following up. The only way to prevent this is to ask for business cards at the end of your interview. Otherwise, you'll have to put on your investigative hat and browse LinkedIn or the company website to double check names. If all else fails, Langerud suggests you call and ask.
7. Attach the note to flowers. Stacy Pursell, founder and president of the The Pursell Group, says one of her candidates unintentionally offended a hiring manager by sending him a plant after the interview. Sending gifts to your hiring manager reeks of desperation— it's a professional faux pas.
Ritika Trikha is a junior copywriter for CareerBliss, an online career community dedicated to helping people find happiness in the workplace. Check out CareerBliss for millions of job listings, company reviews, salary information, and a free career happiness assessment.