Dear Sam: What are the “rules” nowadays regarding thank you notes? Can I just send an email? Do employers even care about them? I don’t want to seem like I’m pestering the hiring manager. – Jamie

Dear Jamie: Many job seekers overlook the importance of a professional thank you letter. Following up with decision-makers after an interview is a critical step in the job search/interview process and can significantly impact a hiring manager’s decision about extending a job offer. Some hiring managers even use thank you letters as a screening tool and narrow down their list of finalists based on which candidates take the time to follow up. It is absolutely in your best interest to send a thoughtful letter that not only thanks each interviewer for his or her time, but also reinforces why you are the right choice. While there are no “rules” with thank you letters, there are some points to keep in mind:

How to send a thank you letter:

The decision about whether to send a thank you letter through email or through snail mail largely depends on how you have communicated with the decision-makers up to that point. If you’ve mainly been communicating through email, it is typically acceptable to send the letter by email. Another factor to take into consideration is how quickly the hiring decision is going to be made. A letter by mail is a nice touch if the company is of a size that the letter would be received and distributed expediently. However, if you know that the team plans to decide quickly, then emailing is likely safer than snail mail to ensure your letter is received in time.

What to include in a thank you letter:

Similar to a cover letter, a thank you letter should be used to clearly express (and in this case, reiterate) your interest in the company and/or position. You should also summarize some of the key points that you made in your interview. For example, you could say something like: “During our discussion, I appreciated the opportunity to share my career in greater detail. Offering [#] years of experience in the [X] industry, I have built a strong reputation as [X] and have demonstrated a track record of results in the form of [bulleted list of key accomplishments]. Consider a thank you letter to be your last chance to impress the hiring manager, so you want to make it clear that you are the candidate he or she should select.

In addition to validating your interest level and recapping your key qualifications, you can choose to address any concerns the hiring manager may have had about your candidacy. If you stumbled over an interview question, for example, you can acknowledge this in your letter and provide a more thoughtful/strategic response.

What a thank you letter demonstrates:

By the very act of following up after the interview, you are demonstrating professionalism, dedication, attention to detail, and the ability to follow through, which are all personal and professional qualities that are desirable to an employer. Even if you are not selected for the current position, you will help to establish a good reputation for yourself and increase the likelihood that the company will contact you for future positions.

Strategically following up after an interview is a non-negotiable part of the job search process. Even after you leave the interview, your actions are being assessed and your level of professionalism is being compared to other candidates. Make sure your personal brand shines through before, during, and after an interview and you should experience success in your job search.