The Power of a Thank You
I can remember as a child being taught by my grandmother how to compose a thank you letter – greet the person who gave you the gift, remind the person what they gave you, tell them how you used the gift or how it was beneficial, thank them again for their thoughtfulness, close, and sign. I also remember that I really hated writing them.
When I graduated from high school, I was faced with the task of having to write a stack of thank you notes; to say I was dreading it was an understatement. Weeks later, someone thanked me for my thank you note and mentioned that they appreciated that I knew how to write one properly. Perhaps it was the recognition for doing a task that I found to be such a burden or the realization that my grandmother had a point in making me write thank you notes, but I have never forgotten their comment. No matter the reason for my memory, their statement taught me the potential impact of a little note.
As an adult, I applied my thank you note writing to my professional life. I wrote thank you notes following job interviews and mentorship sessions. My thank you note writing was again rewarded when I was in the office of a manager and saw that my thank you note (which I had handwritten and personally delivered) was tacked up on their corkboard. In that moment, the profound difference a thank you note can make was undeniable to me because there I was, as a new employee in the office of the manager who hired me, looking at the thank you note I wrote them for taking the time to interview me.
The use of our time is what it all comes down to. Our most valuable commodity is time. It can be sold, traded, given away, and wasted, but it can never be returned and you can never buy more. I think we can all agree that we want to know that our time is valuably spent and when we choose to give it to others, that it is appreciated. That is what a thank you note is about – demonstrating appreciation to someone for sharing their valuable commodity of time.
I always make the recommendation to send thank you notes following informational interviews, job interviews, and mentoring. They are powerful. They set you apart from your non-thank-you-note-writing peers. They demonstrate your professionalism. They can be used to communicate where you stand.
- I have heard some debate over hand writing thank you notes versus composing thank you emails. While I am a bit of a traditionalist and like hand written thank you notes, I will be the first to say that timeliness and authenticity are most important. It is also important to consider the culture of the individual/organization.
- If you can send/deliver a handwritten thank you note within 24 hours of an interview, doing so is authentic for you, and it matches the culture, do it, otherwise, email works just as well.
- For mentoring, while timeliness is not a concern per se, a barrier to sending a handwritten note might be the ability to send it by any means other than email (the circumstances and relationship will dictate whether it is appropriate to ask for the person’s address). Personally, I send emails to thank individuals for their mentorship.
- Say thank you if you want the job and say thank you if it was the worst interview you have ever experienced and you would rather watch grass grow than speak to the interviewer(s) again. Either way, writing a note allows you to demonstrate your professionalism.
- Writing a note when you want the job allows you to discuss points discussed in the interview, why you are the right fit, and to let them know you want the job.
- If you do not want the position, the note is an opportunity to thank them for the opportunity to interview and to tell them that you do not think the position is the right fit.
- Say thank you if you receive amazing mentorship and say thank you if you think that speaking to the person was an hour of your time that you will never get back. At the end of the day, whether you found the information valuable or not, that person willingly and without cost gave you their time, and that deserves thanks.
- The note should be concise and to the point – I recommend 2 paragraphs. A format to consider is:
- Greeting (Dear Jane)
- Remind them what happened (interview or mentoring),
- Cite something of significance that was covered during the interview (this can be a point that was thoroughly discussed or something you learned, just be specific. You can also include with the significant topic how your background aligns if you want the position.)
- Remind them of the next steps (Were there actionable items discussed that one of you needs to execute? Will you speak again? Do you want the position and for them to reach out when they have made a decision? Do you want to tell them that you do not want the position?)
- Close and sign
- Send the note during the recipient’s business hours. That’s normally Monday-Friday 0800-1700 in their time zone.