#1 Send them. It’s amazing I even need to say that, but you’d be surprised how many candidates won’t if I don’t suggest it. Especially for a phone interview, which seems to be viewed less as a real interview and more of a stepping stone to one. Still, did the interviewer take time out of their day to talk with you? Then they deserve to be thanked for it.
#2 Email is a must, but a handwritten note is how serious candidates stand out. Everyone has email—or at least access to it through a friend, family member or local library—so there’s no reason not to use it. It’s quick, free, and the way 99% of the people you’re interviewing with communicate. Ideally, you’ll send it off as soon as you get home from the interview, but any time within 24 hours is fine. Then, if you really want to seal the deal, you’ll send a handwritten note on high quality card stock with an envelope and a stamp and everything. Why? Because maybe—MAYBE—25% of the other candidates you’re competing against will do that. (In actuality, that number is probably far lower). The formula is simple: The email note is focused on the job and how you can bring value to the company. Handwritten one does the same, but has a more personal touch. Maybe it mentions a sports team you both root for, or the delicious cup of coffee you had while you waited. Something casual, but still professional. Trust me, it WILL make you stand out.
#3 Speaking of content, less is more. Especially in the emailed version, even if you and the interviewer bonded and have plans to go camping this weekend, don’t ramble on. Keep it short and to the point. Thank them for their time. Tell them what you like about the role. Tell them specifically how you will bring value to the company (this is the most critical piece). Tell them you’re very interested in taking the next step. Thank them for their time again. Five, maybe six sentences are all you need. Any more than that and you run the risk of coming on too strong. In the handwritten deal-closer, you can add a few lines with the personal touch mentioned above, but still—keep it brief. Also, spell-check is our friend: Use it.
#4 Send one after every interview. If you have five interviews, you will send five batches of thank you notes. (I say batches because every person you speak with should receive their own individualized thank you note, rather than be cc’d on a group one). It goes without saying, then, that you should always remember to get business cards from everyone you meet with so you know what email address to use. If you forget or they don’t have a card, call the front desk and ask for their email address.
#5 Don’t get cute. Scented cards, gifts and baked goods will certainly make you stand out, but not always in a good way. (See “coming on too strong” from #3). Remember, you’re applying for a job, not Homecoming Court.