A prompt individualized note to every person who interviewed you serves multiple purposes at the same time:
1. The thank-you note demonstrates your understanding of, and commitment to, common etiquette. It demonstrates that you appreciate the time and consideration that you have received, as well as your interest in fostering an ongoing relationship. It can solidify your image as a person who will likely treat co-workers with respect and become a valued team member.
2. The thank-you note serves as a writing sample. When your thoughts are cogent, your language is clear, your grammar correct, and your spelling without flaw, you demonstrate the solid communications skills that so many claim to have, but truly lack.
3. The thank-you note provides you an easy opportunity to extend the conversation you have begun. In it you can proactively address an area or two in the interview where you didn't express yourself as clearly as you might. You can provide some information that you forgot to mention in the midst of your conversation. Alternatively, you can bring up some element of your expertise or experience that wasn't touched on at all, but which relates to needs expressed by your potential employer. Either way, by continuing the dialog you demonstrate that you have continued to think about the opportunity to provide value to this employer, and you take it seriously.
4. The thank-you note is a "touch point" that can remind your interviewer of your interchange, when he or she might have gone on to consider other candidates. It is part of your marketing campaign, and any good sales person knows that with every additional "touch point," your chances of making the sale increase. While your ability to initiate conversations with potential employers is limited, this is one occasion when it is expected.
Depending on the particular position, the nature of the company, and the timing of the hiring process, there can be legitimate differences of opinion about the relative value of sending a thank you through email, a handwritten note through "snail mail," or sending an initial email and doing a handwritten note to follow that one up. Nonetheless, it's uncommon to hear of a person not getting a job because he sent it one way rather than the other. But the failure to send a note at all can easily reduce your chances of further consideration, or knock you out of the running altogether.
Regardless of how you convey your message, take the time to think about something personal to say. Reiterate the importance of one or another of the things an interviewer spoke about and relate it to your experience and ability. Your note needn't be long or wordy, but it should go well beyond the simple message: "Thanks for your time. I'm interested in the job."
When you use the thank you note as a relationship-building tool, you will be seen as a person worth knowing and with whom people want to work.
Arnie Fertig is the head coach of JOBHUNTERCOACH.COM, where he utilizes his extensive background in HR Staffing and as owner of a recruiting company to help mid-career job-hunters land their next job. Arnie provides one-to-one coaching services to individuals throughout the U.S. in all aspects of the job hunt, including: resume writing, personal branding, utilizing social media, enhancing networking skills, preparing for interviews, and negotiating compensation.