Friday, December 25, 2009

How To Write a Thank-You Note

It feels deliciously quaint, even retrograde, to sit down with a fountain pen to write a thank-you note on your personalized note cards.

In this age of email and texting and tweets, people are probably communicating more than ever. But their communications are, in the words of Geoffrey Parker, branding consultant and great-grandson of the founder of Parker pens, cheapened for as much. Link here.

When you dash off a text message filled with abbreviations and misspellings, it does not say thank-you. It says that you are careless and do not hold the other person is very high esteem.

The discussion feels like a throwback to a more formal age, but Parker still makes an important point, one that we can easily be applied to different situations. If the gift is special the note should look and feel special. We make impressions with these notes, and why not present yourself at your best.

If everyone is texting their thank-yous and you are sending a formal note, you will stand out from the crowd and will be showing the other person that you hold him or her in very high regard.

If you are about to stop reading this post, because you find it mildly insulting for anyone to encourage you to adopt such habits, keep firmly in mind that you will be called upon, after your next job interview, to write a thank-you note.

You may be burning with desire to get that job, but if you send off a cursory text message in lieu of a thank-you note you will be telling your potential employer that you do not care very much for him or his job.

I am not saying that you should never send an email, but note paper-- not a note card-- is a better way to say thank-you to someone who has interviewed you. For some interviewers it will not matter, but, all things considered, why would you want to take an unnecessary risk.

That being the case, Geoffrey Parker offers some excellent advice about composing thank-you notes.

First, do not just dash it off. Do not just wing it. Before committing ink to paper, try writing a draft. Then, put it aside for a while, and read it with fresh eyes.

If you are like me you will be shocked and awed about how many mistakes you have made, and how easy it was to ignore them in the thrill of writing the first draft.

Second, don't just say thank-you. By my lights, and Parker seems to be on about the same page, a thank-you note should contain three sentences. It is insufficient to thank someone for the sweater and just leave it at that. And it is certainly insufficient to thank an interviewer for his time and leave it at that.

Similarly, a thank-you note is not the occasion to enter into a multi-paragraph disquisition on the state of your friendship. If you are saying thank-you after a job interview, you would not offer an extended critique of the interview or the company, any more than you would present several paragraphs worth of the good points that you forgot to mention in the interview.

According to Parker, a thank-you note should establish something like a conversation. He suggests that you should begin by referring back to the last time you saw each other. And you might continue by asking about an associate or a family member. Then you can express your gratitude for the gift, or for the opportunity to get to know the interviewer, and look forward to enjoying the gift or seeing the interviewer again.

Third, if this is a thank-you for a gift, then, as Parker recommends, you should sign it with your first name. Surely, this also means that you should address the other person informally, either as Jim or Jane or Aunt Sally.

If you are thanking someone for a job interview you should address the other person formally, as in Mr. or Ms. Smith, and should sign with your full name.

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