Regardless of whether you get the job you were seeking, taking the time to show appreciation to your resume references with thank you letters accomplishes two things. It is courteous, and it is a step toward maintaining positive relationships. References who feel appreciated are more likely to stay a good reference in the future and are more inclined to act as a reference again.
Any time you use a resume reference, a thank you letter is in order if a prospective employer made contact. If you are unsure, it is best to send the thank you letter anyway to maintain a positive relationship with all of your references. After submitting a list of references to a prospective employer, start thinking about letters to thank your references. Once you know whether you have received the position to which you applied, write letters to all of your references. You can write a letter before knowing whether you receive a job, but waiting until afterward is best, especially if you are offered a position.
What you say in thank you letters to resume references is really a personal preference, but you can create a basic approach depending on the outcome of your job search. Use a business letter format for all letters expressing appreciation to your references, and follow the advice below for different situations.
In thank you letters to resume references when you receive the job, express your appreciation for their willingness to speak on your behalf. Also thank them for the contribution their positive reference made in helping you get the job. Update them on when you start (or if you have already) and the excitement you have over the new position, including any future aspirations.
In thank you letters to resume references when you do not receive a job offer, express your gratitude for the reference. Explain why you did not get the job (if you know the reason), and inquire about using the person as a reference in future situations. Do so only briefly, however. Instead, keep the focus on showing your appreciation and letting references know what your next steps are in working toward your career goals.
In thank you letters to resume references where you do not yet know whether you have received the job, focus on expressing appreciation and giving a status update. For example, if you were called back for a second interview but are waiting to hear about the result, write briefly about the interview. Remain optimistic, but briefly mention what your intentions are if you are not given the job.
Whenever you make contact with your resume references to show your appreciation, make sure to do so politely and sincerely. Maintaining a positive relationship with your references is important for future job searches, so take the time to give the relationship the attention it deserves. Even after receiving a job, consider keeping in touch with resume references by touching base once or twice a year. This lets them know where you are in your career and what you have accomplished since last contacting them. Most importantly, staying in touch allows you to foster relationships that can be used in later job searches.