Friday, May 19, 2017

Why Thank-You Notes Matter

When I was a child, my mother began nagging me the day after Christmas to write thank-you notes to all my aunts and uncles who had sent me gifts. The nagging didn't stop until I had them written, so I learned to write them quickly so that I could get back to playing with all the toys Santa had delivered.

Now, I hear my mother's voice nagging me when I don't promptly send a thank-you note and I can say that I'm grateful for her persistence. Why? Because too many people let thank-you notes slide -- and I can say that writing thank-you notes has not only kept me in the good graces of many aunts and uncles, but it has also helped my career.

That's because many people let business thank-you notes slide and before they know it, more than a week has slipped by. Then another week. Then they get distracted and forget about sending a thank-you note. In the end, no thank-you note is sent.

But if you remember to send one -- and do it promptly -- you will stand out. And when you're competing for a job or a big project or a new client, being seen as thoughtful and ready to put out extra effort can really help you.

I realize that not everyone had a mother nagging them about thank-you notes, so here are some basic rules to follow:

  • Send it within 24 hours. While etiquette rules say you can wait about three months to send a thank-you note for a wedding gift, it needs to be much sooner than that after a job interview. Send an email within the first day of an interview or meeting with a client, then send a handwritten note by the next day.
  • Recap the highlights. Thank the person for his or her time and take the opportunity to mention two or three things you might have discussed -- your skills for the job, your company's ability to meet the client's needs or your ideas for a new project. If you feel like there is a key point you forgot to mention earlier, include it in the thank-you note.
  • Stay professional. I can't believe I need to mention this, but here I go: Be professional when writing these notes. Don't swear or use emojis in your email. Don't use pink glitter stationary. Use correct grammar and spelling (there is no automatic spellcheck is available when you're handwriting a note).
  • Be unique. It can be tempting to send a form thank-you note that you find online, and that's OK to a point. But they all read the same, and the receiver will recognize a template. So, try to come up with something unique to include, such as "I really enjoyed hearing about your master gardener class," or "Hearing about your love of golf makes me want to start taking lessons."

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