It may sound crazy but, yes, you should send a thank you letter when you are not the candidate selected for the job. It’s not going to make any difference in their hiring solution today but it may have a dramatic impact on future hiring decisions.
I have had a number of clients who were offered another job at the same company because they sent a thank you letter. In a couple of cases, they were even hired for the same job when the initial selection didn’t work out.
Unlike a normal thank you letter, which goes to everyone you spoke with, this one needs to go only to the decision maker and/or the human resource department representative you dealt with. If the letter you received is signed by the HR person, than you thank both of them. If it is signed by the hiring manager, you need to send a thank you note only to that person.
So what do you say in this strange kind of thank you letter? Basically, you thank them for considering you for the opportunity. Tell them something you were impressed about by the company or the department you were being considered for. Let them know you would like to keep in touch and would like to be considered for future openings.
What does this get you in the long run? In addition to the possibility of a job in the future, you have a contact you can follow up with later in your career because you didn’t burn you bridges.