I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’ve never hired a candidate who didn’t send a thank you note after our interview. As a hiring manager, it’s just one simple way to compare my top candidates. If I have an open position and two of the candidates are evenly matched skill-wise but only one sent a thank you note, the latter is likely to receive the offer.

The general rules

If you aren’t following up every interview—and by that I mean each individual person with whom you meet or speak—with a thank you note, you are likely costing yourself the position.

But, the simple act of saying “thank you” is not enough. To really put yourself ahead of your competitors, consider the following elements.

  • Send your note within 24 hours. Send your thank you e-mail as soon as you arrive home from the interview (or within 24 hours) so you don’t forget what was said. Waiting longer than that tells the potential employer the position is not that important to you. You are also encouraged to send a personalized handwritten note via “snail mail” for that added touch.
  • Reference your conversation. Ask each individual you meet with for a business card at the end of your interview, and make notes on the back about what you discussed to help you remember later. Show them you were really paying attention.
  • Emphasize your strengths. Review the position description and your notes about the actual conversations you had, and express exactly why you are the best person for the opening.
  • Reaffirm your interest in the position. Remind each interviewer that you are truly interested in the position and why. Or, if you are no longer interested after having been through the interview process, tell them so. Send your thank you note regardless because you never know when the interviewer will cross your path in the future.
  • Keep it short. Two paragraphs are plenty. Quality over quantity.

What do thank you notes have to do with your personal brand?

Under the assumption that you’ve built your personal brand to advance your career, what’s the point of having done so if you aren’t going to land the job? Your brand should position you as more than just an expert at something—it should also say you are a hardworking, humble jobseeker.

I always tell candidates that three qualities can really help sell a hiring manager: passion, enthusiasm and a willingness to learn more. And a thank you note is an excellent opportunity to showcase all three.

Don’t let the interview process morph your brand

Of course, thank you notes come near the end of the hiring process, but you should be careful how you present yourself throughout. As a hiring manager, I review applications all the time—mostly for internship and entry-level positions. It’s interesting to me how candidates come across in their cover letters and résumés, which is often completely different from the online brand they’ve worked hard to build.

Know yourself, the position, the organization, the industry and even your interviewers extremely well—and how all these pieces fit together. Be true to your brand and use it to advance your career—not hinder it.