By Anita Bruzzese
You probably can still hear your mother's voice nagging you to write a thank-you note to Aunt Millie for the truly boring underwear she gave you (again) for your birthday. You groaned, you moaned, but after a few bodily threats from Mom, you gave up the fight and fired off a thank you note.
"Dear Aunt Millie," you wrote, "Thanks for the underwear. I'm fine. Hope you are the same."
Not exactly stellar stuff, but it got the job done and Mom off your back.
Now that you are grown, you are supposed to write thank-you notes on your own - and not just in your personal life. The world of business may be fast-paced and at times, pretty cutthroat, but good manners still count for quite a bit. In fact, those who show proper etiquette in the workplace often distinguish themselves because they have shown grace and style when many others seem to have forgotten it - or never learned it in the first place.
Let's take, for example, those pesky thank-you notes that you used to avoid. Now, they are critical to your reputation in the business world as a mature, thoughtful, professional being.
When do you send a thank-you note? After a conversation that netted you some helpful advice or insight, after a professional dinner where someone else picked up the tab, after receiving help from a colleague to plan a conference, etc. But let's be very clear here: Always, always, always, send a thank-you note after a job interview.
This is one of the most critical steps that often is forsaken by job candidates who may feel that a spoken "thank you" after an interview does the trick, or even a hurried e-mail message after an interview. Nope. That ain't gonna cut it.
A written thank-you note will be added to your interview file. It will stick in the mind of the interviewer and will give you a last chance to create a good impression.
But remember: a thank-you note is not powerful unless it is well done. In fact, a sloppy, ill-conceived one may leave the lasting impression that you're not a good job candidate, just a real dweeb.
So here are some pointers on writing that top-drawer thank you note:
- Keep it short but not too short. "Thanks a lot for the interview," isn't enough. Try something like, "I just wanted to thank you again for the opportunity to interview with the XYZ Company on Dec. 2. I enjoyed meeting you and the other members of your team to discuss the position of systems analyst." Then go on to describe something specific that will place you solidly in the interviewer's memory ("It was a pleasure hearing about your first assignment in my hometown of San Francisco.") In the second paragraph, restate the qualifications and experience that make you the best candidate for the job.
- Keep it perfect. The note should be typed, with no spelling or grammatical errors, on quality paper. Sign your letter in your own handwriting, with your typed signature beneath it.
- Be timely. Don't wait more than 24 hours after an interview to send the note.
- Shine your star one more time. In the last paragraph, express your enthusiasm for the job and your commitment to do your very best.
- Search your memory. If you feel that you forgot to mention something critical in the interview, use your thank-you note to go over the point.
- Follow-up. Tell the interviewer that you will call in a few days to check on the status of the job.