Remember that employers will view your thank you notes as a "work sample" demonstrating the kind of employee you would be. So, focus on sending the most professional thank you notes that you can, with good spelling, grammar, and language.
Surveys by both CareerBuilder and Accountemps have indicated that an emailed thank you note is acceptable to most employers in the USA. A benefit of emailed thank you notes is that they can be sent -- and received -- very quickly. A traditional handwritten thank you will take at least one day to be delivered and, depending on the organization, may sit in the mail room or on someone's desk for several days before it is read.
However, if you interviewed with a very conservative organization, you should probably consider sending a formal thank you via USPS (a.k.a. "snail mail") in an envelope with a stamp as a follow up.
NOTE: If you have had no email interaction with the anyone in the organization, definitely do a formal written and snail-mailed thank you note.
Like the formal written and printed notes, send a unique message to each person who interviewed you because emailed messages, in particular, may be passed around to others who interviewed you and others in the organization. As an example of your work, you don't want your thank you notes to look like you are lazy and/or sloppy, unconcerned with quality.
[Related: Making Email Work for Your Job Search, Sample Job Interview Thank You to the Person Who Referred You, Sample Job Interview Thank You to an External Recruiter and Sample Thank You Note After a Bad Job Interview.]
Email can be challenging to use, so pay attention to these do's and don'ts to ensure that your message gets through and makes the best impression:
Send the message immediately after the interview, definitely within the first 24 hours, even if the interview was on a Friday (send it as early as possible on Fridays). You don't want to be that last interviewee to send a thank you, in case other candidates are also smart enough to send thank you messages.
DO send a separate, relatively unique message to each person who interviewed you. Since messages are very easy to forward, expect that your message to Interviewer A will be shared with Interviewer B and C, as well as with HR and possibly upper management.
DO vary the wording, but keep the over all theme (you are qualified and enthusiastic about joining the organization), the subject, the closing, and the timing consistent.
DO NOT copy everyone who interviewed you on one message, and DO NOT send the same message separately to everyone.
DO use your personal desktop or laptop computer to send this message.
DO NOT use your tablet or smart phone to write and send this message. It is too easy for unintended changes to be made by the software when auto correction "fixes" the errors it finds. These kind of changes can make you look inept and unable to use something as simple as email.
If you are employed, DO NOT send this message from:
If you use your work computer to send your message, your employer may discover the message and your intentions to leave. The result is that you could have a very uncomfortable discussion with your boss about your job search, or you could lose your job.
DO send the message from the email address used for your application and/or resume to help the employer "connect the dots" between your message and the interview. (Hopefully, for your application/resume, you used a personal email address associated with an account you view often.)
Using the email address on your application/resume should also increase the probability that your message will get through the employer's spam filters.
DO NOT use your work email address or a silly address email address like MillieJMBA@, SurferDude1@, or other silly/informal addresses. Also skip @AOL, @Hotmail, and @Yahoo -- those addresses look "old" to most people now. Do NOT use those email addresses for your job search in the future!
A Gmail address or one associated with your Internet provider, like Comcast or Charter, is fine. Many colleges and universities also offer alumni the ability to use an @[whatever].edu address, which is also acceptable, especially for new grads.
If you are employed, DO NOT send this message from your work email address! You may think it is impressive, but it looks tacky and disloyal to other employers. Again, it increases the probability of job loss or a very uncomfortable meeting with your manager.
DO make the purpose of your message clear with a formal subject line like the examples below. DO use the whole phrase "thank you" in the Subject and the message. Do NOT use the informal term "thanks."
Replace the text in italics above with the appropriate information for you.
DO keep the subject line shorter than 75 characters, if possible. Many email systems show only the first 40 to 50 characters, so keep that in mind when you write your subject.
DO NOT try to be casual or informal by using a subject such as "Hi!' or "Greetings!" These subjects have two major problems:
DO use formal business language. While email messages are typically less formal than printed and snail-mailed messages, that doesn't mean you should be casual in your attitude or language in your thank you message.
DO NOT slip into informality. No emoticons :-( and no texting language (LOL).
DO keep the message short, not more than 3 to 6 brief paragraphs, but --
DO try to help the interviewer remember you by mentioning something from the interview.
DO NOT write a short, informal note which makes no "connection" with the interviewer. Demonstrate your skill in business communications by writing a note as you would email a potential customer or client.
DO use a formal closing including your full name, job title or expertise, your contact phone number, and a link to your LinkedIn Profile.
DO NOT close informally with language like --
See you soon!
See the closing in the sample thank you email, below
Leave the TO: field empty until you have completed, spell checked, and proofread the message (or put your own address in that field until it is ready to be sent).
Adapt the text in this sample (below) to your circumstances, and customize it to each individual who interviewed you.
Replace the Italicized text with whatever terms are appropriate for you and your situation.
Subject: Thank you for the [Job Title] interview on [date]
Dear [Mr./Ms. Last Name]:
Thank you very much for your time today [or yesterday or the date] to interview me for the position of [job title]. I appreciate the opportunity to learn more about this job, to meet you and [names of other interviewers], and to see your facility [or offices, location, whatever is appropriate].
[Reference anything you said that seemed important to the interviewer, like: As we discussed, I find the technology related to using cloud computing fascinating and an amazing opportunity for the future, but security is also a major concern. Keeping XYZ Company's information safe would be a top priority for the person in this job, and I would love to dig deeply into the protective technologies, as well as the threats, to avoid future problems.]
[If possible, reference any "connection" you may have made, like: I enjoyed finding someone else who attended XYZ College and also roots for the hockey team. Hope they make the NCAA Division finals next year!]
As we discussed, I have [months or years] of experience with [technology, tools, or qualification you have that seemed most important in the interview]. With my background and experience, I believe that I could become a contributor to your team very quickly.
I am excited about this opportunity to join [organization name]. Please do not hesitate to email or call me if you have any questions or need any additional information.
I look forward to hearing from you [whenever they said they would be in touch or in 10 days if they didn't give you a date].
[ Your job title or tag line, like "eCommerce Customer Support Specialist"]
[LinkedIn Profile URL]
[Phone number -- not your work number if you are employed]
Hopefully, you will get an email in response to this message, but don't panic if you don't hear from them on their deadline. MUCH may be happening that has nothing to do with you at all.
If they said they would contact you in a week, DO reach out in ten business days to see what is happening if they have not contacted you when they said they would. If you forgot to ask when they would be contacting you after the interview, ten business days is a sufficient gap to demonstrate that you are interested, but not a nuisance.
DO NOT contact them daily -- or even weekly -- for a decision.
NEVER suspend your job search while you wait for a decision from an employer, even if the job is your dream job.
While emailed thank you's are acceptable to most employers, I would urge caution if the organization is very formal or "old school" like some old-line law firms, traditional consulting companies, and other similar organizations.
If you have been communicating with them via email, an emailed thank you should be acceptable. But, if you want to demonstrate your understanding of etiquette, send a formal thank you note, too. (See the Sample Formal Interview Thank You Note for samples of hand-written and also typed thank you notes.)
Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt.org. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.