What 10 minute investment can make someone happy, leave a lasting, good impression, and maybe even get you a job? A thank you note.

Here’s the skinny on when you need to send thank you notes and how to write them.

When to Send a Thank You Note

You must write a thank you note after an interview

Post-job interview thank you notes are mandatory. According to a CareerBuilder.com survey, 22% of employers are less likely to hire a candidate if they don’t send a thank you note and 56% said that not sending a thank you note says that a candidate isn’t really serious about the position. Ouch.

Even if you think you bombed the interview, you should still send a note. The people who interviewed you may have felt like the interview went better than you did. And, if it wasn’t, a note will make them remember you more fondly if you happen to apply for a different position at their company.

By spending a few minutes on writing a fantastic note, you can show that you’re really interested in a position and make sure that the hiring manager remembers who you are.

Sometimes, you need to write two thank you notes after an interview

It’s not often that you get a job after talking to one person. If you interviewed with more than one potential employer or co-worker, you need to send separate notes to everyone. Address them all specifically and make the letters different. You may find yourself in hot water if hiring managers compare their notes and find that they are the same.

It’s nice to write a thank you note other times, too

Everyone likes getting a little thank you, so they are appropriate in all kinds of situations. An unexpected note can make a colleague’s day, build a relationship, and might even make you stand out as a person who is great to work with. Here’s a non-comprehensive list of situations where you might consider writing one:

  • After someone has acted as a reference on a job application
  • After someone has referred you for a position or project
  • After an informational interview
  • After you’ve completed a job for someone
  • After someone has helped you with a project that you oversaw
  • After you’ve received advice
  • After coworkers (or friends) have given you a gift
  • After a discussion of collaboration on future work
  • After an introductory meeting (or even a networking event)
  • After attending a party, event, or other gathering (whether it’s for work or otherwise)

You don’t need to send a thank you note for day-to-day interactions or small favors, but be sure to thank people verbally on the spot for things like that.

Sorry, but your mom was right when she said – always be polite and say thank you.

How To Write a Thank You Note

First and foremost, a thank you note should show appreciation to someone (for their time or an opportunity) and any continuing impact that the act will have on you. If it’s a follow up for a job interview, you can also reinforce your interest in the job and let them know what value you can bring to an organization.

Because you’re writing a thank you note and NOT a thank you novel, writing it shouldn’t take very long. Here are some specifics about how to craft the perfect note.

Choose the appropriate method

Because thank you notes need to be on their way less than 24 hours after the note-inspiring act, you need to quickly decide if you want to send an email or a card.

Emails are appropriate if most of the communication that you’ve had to that point is via email, but many people prefer receiving a hand-written note. Other potential picking points for email are the timing and your handwriting. If you need to get the note to the receiver ASAP, email is much faster than snail mail. Email is also a good option if your handwriting might leave a bad impression. However, emails can get lost more easily and don’t stand out as much as handwritten notes.

Handwritten notes are surely the answer if neither timing nor handwriting is a problem. Be sure to pick a professional looking card for your professional correspondence.

Pick an appropriate greeting

For a business thank you note, you’ll want to address the letter to the person with their title and last name (Mr. Bossman or Ms. Potential-Employer) unless you’re already very familiar with the recipient.

Get to the point

The very first sentence should be to-the-point and say what you’re thankful for. You don’t necessarily have to say “Thank you for…”; you could also begin with something like “It was a pleasure to talk with you about the position of…”

Get specific

Bring up particular ways that an act affected you or precise points from a conversation to make the note personal. NEVER send out a generic thank you note. You may even want to enclose an extra, such as an article you mentioned during an interview or a link to a site that you think your recipient might like, to give your note a special touch.

As an interview follow up, you may want to add one or two pieces of key information that you didn’t get to in the interview, but you shouldn’t spend much time on that part of the letter. Please don’t tell them over and over why you’re perfect for the job.; You should have definitely taken care of that in the interview. Remember that this isn’t an advertisement; it’s an expression of gratitude.

Wrap it up

Reiterate your thanks (and, if it’s post-interview correspondence, your interest for the position), close your note with something like “Sincerely” or “Best Regards”, and sign your name.

Check it twice

You should always proofread any correspondence you send. If you’re worried about making a mistake, have someone else read over it as well. Your editing buddy may even be able to let you know if you’re being a little too forward in your note.

Need to brush up on those interview skills, too? Practice with our Interview Simulator and learn how to look good on a tight budget.