In this day of fast technology – email, texting, instant messaging and so on, you could be forgiven for thinking that a handwritten thank you note has no place. After all, by the time it is received, the decision has already been made, right?
Well, yes and no.
Handwritten Notes are an Addition
First, I do not advocate ignoring modern media. The hand written note should be in addition to both a verbal thank you during the meeting and a quick emailed thank you directly after you arrive back at your home or office. In addition, local postal service in the US still generally delivers first class mail overnight, although this isn’t guaranteed. Getting a handwritten note in the next day’s mail can pleasantly surprise the recipient quickly enough to sway a close decision. But don’t expect it to.
If I Didn’t Get the Job/Contract, Wasn’t It Wasted Effort?
Please never think of taking the little extra steps as wasted effort! If you think this way, you close yourself out of many opportunities. An anecdote:
I once sent a thank you note to a manager who had made it quite clear that I wasn’t going to be a good fit for the position. I thanked him for taking the time to meet with me, even though it appeared we weren’t a good match. The day he received it, he called me to say that a colleague was in need of services of the type I provided, that the note reminded him of me, and could he please share my resume and contact info with his acquaintance? This wasn’t a published opening. I never would have heard about it if not for my thank you note.
My Handwriting Sucks and I don’t Know What to Say
The first part of this is simple, if not easy, to fix. Practice. Slow down and don’t scribble. Use a good pen and write whenever you have a moment. Retraining your hand muscles may take a while, but it can be done. And it is worth it. I encourage actual, pen-written notes, but obviously, if you have physical issues that make writing difficult or impossible, use whatever method you can to send a personal message.
What to write is actually easier to fix. You will get better with practice, but to start, cover the simple basics:
- thank the recipient for taking time to meet you
- tell them you appreciated learning more about X and discussing the possibility of working with them
- thank them again for their time
- use a complimentary close such as “Sincerely,” “Yours truly,” or “Best Wishes.”
- sign your name
Just taking the time to do this can improve your chances of getting either this gig or another. Going the short extra distance will make your name stand out in memory.
A tip: When you go to your meeting, have a pre-addressed, stamped thank you card in your bag or vehicle. Then you just have to write your note and drop it in the mailbox on your way home.
Additional People in the Meeting
If there are additional people that you weren’t expecting in your meeting, sometimes it is worth it to send them individual cards as well – but don’t slight anyone. You were invited by your main contact- make sure you send a card to her. If you can, send an additional card to each additional person. But if you didn’t catch everyone’s names, or can’t confirm the spelling of them, don’t fret it. Send them to everyone or just to your original contact. Guessing who in a large meeting causes more trouble than the benefit you might gain.
Have you used thank you notes after job interviews or proposal presentations? How did it work for you? Tell me about it in the comments!