Seal the job with an ace follow-up letter

Flickr user carmichaellibrary

(MoneyWatch) Job searches are emotionally draining, and making it all the way through the interview process can be arduous. But unless the hiring manager offers you the position on the spot at the end of the interview -- rare, but certainly not unheard of -- you're still not done. Put your best foot forward and improve the odds of getting a job offer by sending an awesome follow-up letter the next day.

There are a few key ingredients in any follow-up letter. Based on my experience of both writing and (as a hiring manager) receiving follow-ups, here's my advice for crafting a compelling, memorable and persuasive email.

Be sure to get the hiring manager's e-mail address when you're at the interview. This can be easy to forget amid the anxiety and confusion of the day, but you'll want the address so you can follow up later. Many hiring managers offer their e-mail to candidates; if not, ask for it.

Send it promptly. Ideally, send the note the next day -- don't delay more than two days. You'll want to send it while you're still fresh in the hiring manager's mind, and you'll want to send it soon enough that a final hiring decision hasn't yet been made. Things might happen quickly, so if you procrastinate you might miss the boat.

Keep it short. When you sit down to write your follow-up e-mail, keep it short and to the point. If it's more than about three paragraphs, it won't get read, which makes it roughly equivalent to not having sent anything at all.

Thank everyone. Your e-mail should begin by thinking everyone whom you met -- and especially the hiring manager -- for the time they spent talking to you.

Remind them who you are. Take the opportunity to insert some personality in the message. If you can, find a way to remind the hiring manager who you are by referring to some memorable event, conversation or anecdote from the interview. That will help an overworked manager connect your follow-up (and related resume) to the real person he or she met in person.

Drive home your key qualifications. The hiring manager might have interviewed anywhere from one or two other people to a dozen for this role, so it's helpful to restate what you believe to be your most compelling skills and qualifications for the role.

Provide follow-up information. Did someone ask you something that you didn't have a great answer for? Did you discuss a project that you wish you could have shared in the meeting? This is your chance to deliver additional information to help make your case and to show you can follow through.

Ask about next steps. Without appearing needy (or, in the words of the short-lived TV series "The Tick," "wanty,") ask the hiring manager what to expect next and, in the process, emphasize that you are ready to help if he or she needs anything else.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user carmichaellibrary