The Lost Art of the Thank You Note

thank you cardA few months ago I attended my best friend’s son’s high school graduation party. After all the food and festivities the three of us had some quite time. While I debated as to the tipping point of too much food, she and her son went through every card. He read each one, told her who gave it to him and had a nice comment about each and every person.

Shortly after, he went to reservist training and in his packed belongings was the list, thank you cards and stamps. He was personally going to write a thank you note to each and every person. Not only thanking them if they attended, for any gift but to also put a personalize note to them. His mom did not make him to this entirely; he knew it was expected of him. He understood and appreciated that they spent part of their valuable personal time on him.

Sending a thank you note after an interview is the same concept, plus one. You are thanking the interviewer for taking part of their valuable time to meet with you. Trust me, they have a lot on their plate, this was a sacrifice for them. The plus one is you are also letting them know you are still interested.

Business writing can be a bit overwhelming, especially when job searching. Too often we put extreme pressure on ourselves to say just the right thing. So let’s break it down into the four basic parts and ease our way through it. We will also hit on some please do not do’s, timing and delivery.

Four Parts of a Thank You Note

1. The Thank You

Start off by thanking them for their time in meeting with you on the specific date to discuss the position.

2. Reinforce the Positive

Let them know that you enjoyed hearing about one or two certain aspects of the job that align with your skills, experience or value and tie into a winning moment in the interview.

This is how you tie back to a positive connection that you made during the interview.

Think back through the interview where you think you really scored or you two seemed to click. Reiterate that moment. They may have a goal of abc and in the interview they seemed to perk up about your experience in being successful in achieving those goals.

In the thank you note you can simply say something to the effect of, “I am confident that the experience, lessons and successes I have in xyz, I can bring immediate value in helping company name in achieving abc.”

3. You are Still Interested

It amazes me to hear hiring managers, HR professionals and recruiters tell me that more often than not, interviewees do not let them know if they are still interested in the job after interviewing. All too often, they let these candidates drop. You are interviewing the company just as it is interviewing you. As nervous as you are that they like you, they have the same feelings and nervousness.

We all want to be liked, they are no different. They want the right candidate to like them. They also like to be told that you still like them.

A simple statement such as, “after speaking to you I am even more interested in the opportunity/position with company name”

4. Set up the Follow up

Conclude the note with either confirming the next steps or setting the stage for following up. If, at the end of the interview, you were told that the next step would be an email at the end of the week then your conclusion could be, “I look forward to receiving the email by the end of the week and moving forward in this process.”

If there was no next step defined, then a gentle prod is okay. “I look forward to speaking to you soon about the next steps in moving forward with this position.”

Delivery and Timing

Write the note after you come down off the interview high, but the same day so the information is fresh. I recommend sending a thank you note no later than the next day.

It is an electronic world; it is acceptable to send it via email. Just remember this about email verses formal letter writing – email is expected to be shorter. The reason I called it a thank you note instead of a thank you letter is for brevity. Make it short, sweet and to the point.

Mailing a formal thank you note is acceptable too, who does not like to get good mail?

Please Do Not Do’s

Please do not remind them of a negative. The thank you note is not a place to make up for mistakes during the interview. Focus only on the positive. They might have forgotten about a misstep during the interview, why bring it up again?

Please do not use the opportunity to ask about salary, vacation or benefits. This is simply a thank you for their time and letting them know you are still interested. This is not an informal information gathering opportunity.

Please do not demand of them. Saying things like, “I expect to hear” or setting time frames on them is not appropriate.

Please do not try to play passive aggressive. This is not the place to let them know that you are being considered for another position so they better step up.

Please do not copy and paste the same thank you for each interview and each interviewer. The premise can be the same, however, make tweaks for each individual and situation.

Please do not lie. If you are not interested and do not want to continue with the process, let them know – in a nice way. This is a three step process:

1. Thank them for their time and let them know you appreciate learning about the company and position.
2. Let them know after much consideration that you do not feel that you are the best candidate for this position/the opportunity is not in the best interest of your family – any manner in which you can politely decline in a positive way.
3. Leave the door open: close with a statement that you wish them, their department, their company much success and hope that if another opportunity that aligns with your skills/goals or unfortunate circumstances were removed, you would love to have another discussion.

Will the thank you note cinch the job for you, probably not. However, it does provide additional touches to the interviewer, reinforces positive aspects about you and solidifies your professional brand.

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I help people identify and set a path to achieve their career goals by using the V Formula:

Your Value + Your Voice = Visibility

Visibility is the leverage to move in, move up or move on in your career; expand your book of business or territory, grow your company and strengthen your team.

–Lisa

Lisa K. McDonald, Owner and Principal of Career Polish, Inc. is a favorite speaker and seminar facilitator at companies, professional organizations and colleges speaking to leadership, sales, teams, transitioning/downsized employees and networking groups about career mobility, personal branding, networking, creating executive presence and achieving career movement success. To find out more, visit Career Polish, Inc.

Appreciation in Networking

thank youI am going to start with the assumption that anyone reading this has an understanding of the importance of networking in looking for a job, expanding on their career or building their business.

 

What I want to bring up today for discussion is one of the most important steps in networking: showing appreciation.

 

I am a big appreciation fan.  I think appreciation should be shown every day at every opportunity.  It is a feel-good all the way around – it makes you feel good and the other person and it take so little effort.

 

The last time I spent the weekend with my best friend we went out for dinner and drinks the first night I arrived.  It was a Friday night and I had just driven 5 hours after working in the morning and she had a full day so we were both a little frayed.

 

Our waiter was awesome: genuinely friendly, attentive without hovering and when the place started getting more crowded he sowed the same care and attentiveness to every table without missing a beat.

 

We asked a waitress to ask the manager to come to our table.  Of course, we knew what this poor guy was going to think having us call the manager – first thoughts: “What did I do?”  And that manager was expecting it – you could just read it all over his body language.

 

Instead, we both gave genuine appreciation for our waiter.  The manager was really taken back and said no one ever calls him to tell him good things.  He said he was going to write this up and put it on the employee board for all the staff to see.  He also said our guy was brand new so it was a very kind thing for us to do.

 

We of course told our waiter we thought he was doing a good job, but we also knew that in the service industry these things never get said to management.  That is why we felt it was the right thing to do.

 

I’ve had a talk with my son a few times about communication.  He and I text a lot, it is our normal method of communication.  I am ok with it because he knows if I need to talk about something, I will call.  Thanking me for something is normally done via text.

 

His father, on the other hand, doesn’t like to be texted for thank yous.  He prefers a call.  Our son doesn’t understand why he can’t just text him since he texts me and it is ok.  I told him because we are different, it isn’t his to understand why, just know that it is important and more meaningful if he makes a call to his dad.

 

It is the same concept, but the delivery is different and that is the distinction.  That is what is important.

 

When someone refers a client to me if they send me an email I immediately email them back and thank them and tell them I will keep them in the loop.  If the client decides to engage me then I send them another email and let them know and again give my appreciation.

 

I also like to follow up with a thank you card.

 

It is important to me that I take a couple extra steps to let them know that I appreciate them thinking of me and thinking enough of me to refer someone they know.  After all, my professionalism it is a reflection on them as well for referring me.  I take this seriously.

 

When networking please remember that it is not expected that everyone will do something for you.  If they do, by giving you a contact, referral or tip it is important to thank them.

 

But that is what networking is about, you might be thinking – sharing of information, helping each other out.

 

Yes it is, however, it is also not a given.  And one way to build a very bad reputation and have all your contacts evaporate before your eyes is to either treat the referral badly or show no appreciation for them taking the time to think of you.

 

They took time out of their day to make the connection and reach out to you.  The least you can do is say thank you.  Their time is just as valuable as yours and it should be acknowledged.

 

Choose your method according to your audience, your relationship and professional bound – but no matter what you choose – just do it!

 

 

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

www.CareerPolish.com

 

Want Help – Follow 2 Simple Steps

please and thank you

I have a friend that bought a house earlier this year.  We have pretty much converted the whole house into something new and, well quite frankly, it looks great.  Painted every room, decorating, staining and putting up trim, redoing kitchen cabinets, putting up backsplash, new light fixtures – top to bottom we are transforming that house into his own.

 

I say we because I’ve been the head painter, decorator, shopper and project manager.  Last weekend we painted the outdoor storage shed – more like a mini house.  Later I had someone else ask me why I have done so much to help my friend.

 

It is simple, really.  Just two little reasons:

 

  1. He      asked.
  2. He is      appreciative.

 

That’s it.

 

I find as a rule, most people do want to help you.  You might run into apprehension when asking, but that is nothing to take personally.

 

Normally when someone is apprehensive it is due to either having been asked for help but expected to produce results or a continual barrage of requests without listening to the advice given.

 

Here is an example of each of these scenarios:

 

A job seeker reaches out to a possible contact to request their opinion or advice.  The contact agrees to give them time and the job seeker then ends up asking them who they know that is hiring or could connect them to in order to get a foot in the door.

 

A job seeker contacts a possible contact to ask for advice and the contact speaks to them for a period of time giving good, solid information and suggestions.  The next day the job seeker calls back to clarify what they said and ask exactly how they should do one thing they suggested.  A couple days later they call again with the mind set that it isn’t working and what are they doing wrong, or is there anything else they should be doing.

 

People don’t mind helping; but when it becomes an expectation it crosses the line and they are no longer willing to provide assistance, information or expertise.

 

Many will say that they don’t know how to get help.

 

Ask.

 

It is as simple as that.

 

Reach out and ask for their time and advice.  Be respectful in knowing the boundaries, do not expect more than what is offered, do not use it as an opportunity to recruit them as your own personal head hunter or connector to anyone else.  Keep it simple and respectful.

 

The next important aspect in receiving someone’s help:

 

Thank them.

 

A simple follow up note stating your appreciation will go a long way.  Who doesn’t like to feel appreciated?  I know last weekend after I was home and settled for the night my friend called and simply said, “I just wanted to thank you for all you have done.  I really appreciate it.”

 

That one simple gesture was genuine.  It is one reason why I don’t mind giving up my time and putting work into his projects.  He appreciates it and tells me as much.

 

Don’t be afraid to ask for help or opinions.  Simply ask giving the parameters of what you are asking.

 

If you are looking to break into a new field you can contact someone already working in the industry and tell them that they are doing a job that you would love to do and would simply like to find out more about how they got there to determine your next steps.  Be clear that you are not asking for a job or leads, just simply would love some industry insight.

 

If they agree, keep your conversation within the allotted time period, stick to your questions and do not meander over to the dark side of asking them to do any more for you.

 

At the end of the conversation thank them for their time and value that they presented to you.  Immediately write a thank you note and pop it in the mail.  If you don’t do thank you notes, which I see no reason not to, the next day send them an email thanking them again.

 

These two things: asking and appreciation, will serve you well now and in the future.

 

 

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

www.CareerPolish.com

 

 

Try a Little Tenderness

lexi lovingI am definitely a dog person.  No matter what my day it is made better with my dogs.  If I am having a horrible day they know.  That’s when they nuzzle and look up at me like, “Your day may be bad but you’re awesome.”  You just can’t beat that.

When my day is great – they make it better.  I think they know that too.  It is almost like they are saying, “Congratulations!  I think we should play to celebrate!”

I am also a big believer in gratitude.  Every day I give thanks for all that has come into my life, is in now and yet to come.  I also believe in kindness and positive behavior.

Have you ever told your dog or any dog that they are pretty?  If you are a dog person you know exactly what I am talking about.  They can be across the room and you tell them “you are a pretty boy” and what happens? They wag their tail.  They know.  They can sense your kindness and tenderness.  They accept it and it makes you feel good.

What I find amazing is people, even non dog people, are more willing and free to tell a dog that they are pretty before they would even consider giving themselves a compliment or nice word.

We do not praise or recognize ourselves enough. When was the last time you accomplished something and told yourself, “Self, you did good.”?  If you had to ask what year it was that is a bad sign.

Not only do we not tell ourselves that we did good, we also really, really stink at taking compliments.

Dogs aren’t like that.  When you tell them they are pretty they don’t turn around, put a paw over their snout and say, “oh no, I look like hell today and I know this collar makes me look fat.”  They just don’t do that.  They wag their tail in saying, “thank you.”  Simple.  The end. Period.

Try living a bit like your dog today.  Give kindness just because you are there and accept compliments with a simple thank you.  We all deserve a little tenderness.

 

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

www.CareerPolish.com

 

As I wrote this I had the song from the title running through my head.  It is from one of my favorite movies of all time – bonus – can you name the artist and movie?  Double bonus – do you remember the scene?

Learn To Say Thank You and Then Just Shut Up

It is kind of amazing how many people are terrible at taking compliments.  I will admit, I am one – however it is something that I actively work on improving.

Of course it helps that I have friends that will immediately jump my case if I say anything other than “Thank you” after a compliment.  Honestly, it has helped me.  It is easier to feel uncomfortable for a moment rather than have to listen to them for an hour lecturing me.  You know who you are….

Let’s face it, there are not enough compliments given these days.  I am not sure why, I mean it is easy to do, is a wonderful feeling on the receiving end and it takes so little time.  Maybe because us bad-compliment-receivers have ruined it for the compliment givers.

For my fellow bad-compliment-receiver let me give you a run down on why it is important for you to take a compliment well and how to do so.

 

Why you should take a compliment well

  1. Someone      thought enough about you to give you praise.
  2. Someone      has recognized something about you.
  3. In      downplaying a compliment you are downplaying yourself.
  4. You      are underselling yourself.
  5. In a      way you are insulting the compliment giver.
  6. You      may be making the compliment giver feel uncomfortable.

 

Let’s look at a scenario:

 

John: “Great job on that project Tom”

Tom: “Aw, thanks, but I really didn’t do anything actually I’m surprised the whole thing was pulled off.”

 

Now John could be thinking that either Tom actually didn’t have anything to do with it, wasn’t proud of the project himself, or may even feel uncomfortable at that moment because honestly, how to do you follow that up?

How about this – what if John was setting up an opportunity to tell Tom about a new, better position opening that he wants to give to Tom? After that downplay maybe he is second guessing that idea.

 

How to take a compliment well

  1. Say      “Thank you”
  2. Shut      mouth.

 

Yep, it really is that simple.  Now, as a bad-compliment-receiver I know how hard it is to stop after the “you” but it is necessary.  Bite your tongue, put food in your mouth, take a drink, make yourself cough – whatever you need to do but seriously – shut up.

I have given compliments before and the receiver is so uncomfortable receiving it that they turn the whole situation into a disaster.  It made me want to run.  It also made me feel extremely uncomfortable; I mean if they hold such a low self-image of themselves then no matter what I say it could turn into a game of “poor pity me” and I don’t like that game.

I think it important to give recognition.  If you have earned it learn to take it or else you will find that people stop giving it because they don’t want to hear the possible “pity me” or have you disrespect them in basically telling them they were wrong for complimenting you.

That’s another thing, if I give someone a compliment on a job well done and they completely downplay it or tell me how they don’t deserve it I might start to think that maybe I was wrong about the whole thing.  People don’t like feeling like they are wrong.

Someone once told me that they feel like they are bragging if they don’t down play it.  It took me a while to wrap my head around that one.  I mean, how are you bragging if someone else said it?

Something else that helps in learning how to accept compliments – give them more often.  Honest, small compliments throughout the day can make an amazing difference to someone and it can really make your day.  I find this is a sure fire way to beat the crappy day syndrome.

If I’ve had a particularly crappy day then I make it a point to give compliments.  Just because my day sucks doesn’t mean I have to share that with anyone else.  I’ll be in the grocery store and if I see an elderly woman with a nice blouse I will say something like, “What a beautiful blouse – it is a lovely color on you.”  Or maybe there is a dad there with a couple of kids who are behaving (so rare these days at least at the grocery stores I have been to) and I will tell him, “You kids are so well behaved.”

It is amazing how a compliment can make someone’s day.  Normally the grocery people are taken by surprise and “thank you” is an immediate reaction but their stun slows any discrediting remarks and I make sure to move on before they get a chance.  It saves the moment.  They got a nice compliment, I have the warm and fuzzies – the crappy day is lessening.

Today if anyone gives you a compliment make it a conscious effort to do the following:

Say “Thank you”

Shut UP!

Smile

 

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach-Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Career Polish, Inc.

http://www.CareerPolish.com

The Art of The Hand Written Note

I have to go to the post office today because I ran out of stamps.  Do you remember stamps – those sticky little things that you have to put on an envelope in order for the postman to deliver said envelope to another location.  I remember when we used to have to lick stamps to make them stick.  Ah, the good old days.

 

The reason I ran out of stamps is because I have been writing my thank you notes.  Oh, wait – do you remember those?  They are in the category of hand written notes that seem to have gone by the way side.

 

I love hand written notes.  I love writing them and receiving them.  Just in their simple existence they convey thought, intention and effort.  Someone was thinking enough of me to actually take the time out of their day to write something, in actual pen and paper, let alone find a stamp to mail the sucker.

 

Personally as an old fashioned romantic, I am a sucker for a hand-written note or even a card.  Yep, I’m totally girlie that way and I’m ok with it.  Texts and emails are fine, calls are lovely but the hand written notes are divine – at least in my book.

 

Back to the business side – I encourage, strongly encourage, all my clients to write thank you notes to their interviewer as a follow up.  Not only does it convey thought and consideration, it also conveys that you really want the job.  It takes only a few minutes but makes such an impression.

 

I had interviewed several times with several people for a position once and after each one I diligently wrote my little thank you notes.  After I was hired my boss said it was a suck up move, I told him it was proper business etiquette.  I also noticed that they kept every one of those notes in my file.  It made an impression.

 

Writing that note is not as hard as most people fear – it just takes a few minutes of concentrated effort.  Think back to the interview and topics or times that you feel you made a real connection with the other party.  Now is the time to strengthen that bond.  Giving subtle reminders about that moment such as “I really enjoyed hearing about…” or “As we discussed I know my extensive experience in XYZ will allow me to hit the ground running as Position Name”.

 

Let me caution you – the thank you note is not the time to correct any perceived errors.  If you think that you did not answer a question well now is not the time to say “What I meant was…” because all you are doing is reinforcing the negative.  Let it go, emphasize the positive.  Leave them with a warm and fuzzy feeling.  What if they had already forgotten about your faux pas and here you go reminding them – not exactly what you want to do.

 

Practice makes perfect.  Make sure you open up Word and type out what you are going to say.  This will help you with the grammar and spelling.  Help – not cover it completely.  Right now I can type “I worked four Merrill Lynch” and the “four” did not get flagged.  Grammar and spell check are tools, not the end all be alls.

 

I’m a dork, I always type it out first – no matter what the note.  But I’m a horrible speller and the last thing I want to do is prove that to someone.  I know my limitations, and I’m ok with them.

 

If you are writing a thank you note to a business associate after a meeting you want to follow the same rules – highlight a strong moment and leave it on a positive note.  If there is a strong business connection and potential for referrals then by all means include a couple of your business cards in there.

 

A well thought out hand written note is an often-forgotten gem.  You just never know how much it could woo the reader and if that job, prospect or partner is worth it a little wooing goes a long way.

 

 

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach-Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Career Polish, Inc.

http://www.CareerPolish.com