The power of a thank-you note

A simple thank-you note may not seem like much, but it could be the difference between landing a coveted job or not.

From the pages of In Business magazine.

“Thank you.”

Those two simple words, put together, can mean an awful lot to most people. Expressing gratitude to someone for something they’ve done for you, no matter how small, is a simple act of kindness we often do without really thinking about it.

Taking the time to hand write and send a paper thank-you note, however, is quite intentional, and often much more meaningful.

This is not the point when I tell you that I always send handwritten thank-you notes to people, and so should you. Unlike my wife, I wasn’t raised in a household that prioritized the habit of sending thank-you notes to friends and loved ones for gifts. Even knowing now how many people find it rude not to receive a thank-you note, I still can’t bring myself to do it with any regularity or conviction.

This also isn’t the point when I suggest my way is best, and all those thank-you-note-sending rubes out there are just wasting their time. There are times that I may have thought that, but the lesson here is really that I’m maybe, kind of, possibly a jerk. Or at the very least, just an idiot.

“I’m willing to admit that thank-you notes aren’t such a silly idea when it comes to our professional lives.”

(A quick aside: I once told an employee at Hallmark that I thought greeting cards were pointless. So definitely an idiot and also tactless.)

Don’t get me wrong, I still don’t understand the necessity some people feel about sending thank-you notes, or the resentment others have about not receiving them. If I’ve already said “thank you” in person or in a text or an email, why should I also have to send a card? But I’m willing to admit that thank-you notes aren’t such a silly idea when it comes to our professional lives.

A study by staffing firm Accountemps found that today, just 24 percent of job applicants bother to send thank-you notes to their interviewer, down from 51 percent in 2007. Score one for the thoughtless folks out there like me!

Interestingly though, 80 percent of human resources managers surveyed believed those messages were helpful in evaluating potential hires, with 86 percent preferring a handwritten thank-you message. Huh?

Very often, we already find ourselves jumping through numerous hoops to land a job. The thought that sending a handwritten thank-you note is now “just one more” isn’t exactly comforting. In this case, however, a little decency seems like a small price to pay if it gets you the job you want.

Here are a few dos and don’ts for giving thanks:

  • Do add value. Instead of writing a generic note, customize the message by mentioning something that was discussed in the interview that stuck with you.
  • Don’t delay. Send a thank-you note within 24 hours. Some employers make hiring decisions shortly after the round of interviews is complete, so an initial thank-you email is appropriate. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still follow up with a handwritten note, as well.
  • Do proofread. Typos and grammatical mistakes may come across as a lack of attention to detail. Take the time to review, revise, and refine the thank-you note.
  • Don’t be pushy. If you don’t hear from the employer within a week of the interview, it’s appropriate to follow up with a phone call or another email. But do so in moderation. Persistence is laudable, but pestering can get you removed from the short list.

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