No "downside" really exists for sending a thank you note after a job interview, although less than 50% of job candidates bother to do it (57% do not send a thank you). Sending a thank you -- if done reasonably well -- will definitely not hurt your chances at a job.
Worst case, your thank you will be ignored.
Best case, your thank you will improve the impression you left after the interview, making you stand out from your competitors.
Eighty-six percent of employers view candidates who do not send thank you notes as clearly not good at "follow through" -- which is a big negative.
Before you leave the interview, collect names and addresses. You need the correct spelling of each interviewer's name as well as their email and postal addresses.
If possible, exchange business cards with each person who interviews you. If you can't collect the business cards, confirm name (with the correct spelling) and contact information with the recruiter or HR staff or someone else on the staff before you leave.
Regardless of how the interview happened -- in person, over the telephone, at lunch, or via an online video -- a prompt thank you note, to each participant, is appropriate.
When you get home from your job interview, hang up the phone, or disconnect from Skype, look at your job interview notes, dig in, and write your thank you immediately.
In most -- but not all -- circumstances, email is acceptable. More on that below.
Find examples for phone interviews, Skype/video interviews, second interviews, and more in the Guide to Writing Thank You Notes After a Job Interview including Sample Thank You Notes (and Emails).
Of course, a lot of job seekers think that writing a thank you letter is a waste of time, and hopefully the job seekers you compete with have that attitude -- because it is wrong.
A recent CareerBuilder survey showed that 22% of employers are less likely to hire a candidate who does not send a thank you, and 91% like being thanked, according to an Accountemps survey. So, you can be pretty sure that sending a thank you note won't hurt your chances at the job.
Let’s look at the value of this thank you:
In the end, you have much more to gain than to lose by writing the thank you notes. And, if you don't write the thank you, you may blow the opportunity nearly 25% of the time (yikes!).
We have four options now:
Email is acceptable to nearly 90% of employers according to that Accountemps survey referenced above and linked at the bottom of this article. However, more traditional people often prefer a hand-written or, even, a word processed thank you.
Your choice of method depends on the job you are seeking, what you feel most comfortable doing, and what you think the people there will prefer.
If you use email, do NOT send one email message to everyone you interviewed with. Make each message unique, based on your notes, and send each to only one individual.
Yes, you need to write different letters that reflect the different discussions and points made (or not made).
Remember, you never know who really holds the influence on the hiring process! Thank everyone who interviewed you.
Don’t think you know who is most important and write one thank you, only to them. You could do yourself damage if you choose the wrong person, so don't take that risk.
Be very careful, because this can backfire badly if you send it to the wrong person or the wrong organization.
Sometimes there is room for creativity in the process:
If you opt for something clever, make sure that it is suitable and relevant, not just a neat idea.
Laura DeCarlo is recognized as the career industry’s ‘career hero’ making a difference to both job seekers and career professionals as the founder of Career Directors International. She possesses 11 top-level certifications in resume writing, career coaching, and career management; 7 first place resume and job placement awards; and has written three books on interviewing and job search including Interview Pocket RX, Interviewing: The Gold Standard, Resumes for Dummies,and Job Search Bloopers. Follow Laura on Google+ and Twitter at @careerhero.