7 Smart Tips for Writing a Proper—and Professional—Thank You Note
Think a post-job interview thank you note has gone the way of calling cards and phone books? Think again. Especially in the digital age, a handwritten message is a nice gesture, and an easy way to stand out in a pool of equally qualified applicants. It’s as simple as this: Be yourself, write it down, and get it in the mail, pronto. Here’s how.
1. STOP WASTING TIME.
When it comes to thanking an interviewer or potential boss for their time, don’t drag your feet. “Shooting them a note quickly doesn’t look desperate or needy—it looks interested,” says etiquette expert Diane Gottsman, who runs The Protocol School of Texas, a firm that specializes in etiquette training for corporations, universities, and individuals.
Her policy? Send a quick email later that day, then write a handwritten note within 24 hours. “Often, we worry about doing too much or too little,” she says. “And when that happens, we freeze.” Avoid stagnation by adopting this two-pronged approach for all professional and networking interactions.
2. YES, YOU REALLY SHOULD SEND A HANDWRITTEN THANK YOU.
You might be thinking that snail mail is so 1995. But after your initial email (which you’ll send, ideally, before close of business the day of your interview), get ready to put pen to paper. “It’s just a little bit of effort,” says Gottsman. “But if you’re neck-and-neck with another candidate, this could set you apart.”
3. BUT FIRST, MAKE LIKE GRADE SCHOOL AND WRITE A ROUGH DRAFT.
Before you bust out the stationery, gather your thoughts. Feel free to write a quick draft on the computer, but also take a piece of scratch paper and actually write the message out. Write slowly. Write legibly. Bonus points if you trace an outline of your stationery onto a piece of printer paper or a memo pad, so you’ll see how the note will fit in the space available.
4. KEEP THE NOTE PROMPT AND MAKE THESE THREE KEY POINTS.
Thank the interviewer for his or her time, reiterate your interest in the opening, and draw a connection between your experience and the role. This thank-you won’t be all that different from your initial email, says Gottsman: “It’s okay to be a little bit repetitive here. By the time the person receives this thank you, he or she might have met a handful of other candidates.”
Be yourself (your professional self, that is) and sincere—and don’t be afraid to show a little emotion or enthusiasm. “A hiring manager is looking for someone who’s competent, sure, but they’re also looking for someone who wants this job and plans to stay awhile,” she explains. Keep it short; if you’ve written more than six or so sentences, it’s too long. Open the note with “Dear” and close it with something simple, like “Sincerely" or “Best wishes.” This isn’t the place for a “Cheers” or a “Fingers crossed!”
5. PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT. (SO DOES PROOFREADING.)
More likely than not, your penmanship has … suffered a bit as you’ve gotten older. These days, you might hand-write (or scribble) only the grocery list. So if you need to, write that rough draft a few times to practice your spacing. Once you’ve penned the note on stationery (more on that below), give it a thorough check. “Nobody’s going to ding you for messy handwriting, as long as they can read it,” Gottsman says. Will someone else be able to tell the difference between an o and an a? Is everything spelled correctly? If you don’t trust yourself, snap a photo of your note and email or text it to a trusted friend for a once-over.
6. INVEST IN SOME REAL STATIONERY.
“It doesn’t have to be expensive,” Gottsman says. “Your cardstock just needs to feel high quality and look professional.” Contrary to popular belief, the card itself needn’t say the words “Thank You!” A better choice: Your initials or monogram, your name, or a small symbol or icon. Keep it simple.
7. PAY ATTENTION TO EVERY DETAIL.
“In correspondence like this, everything counts,” Gottsman says. “I might not mean to judge you based on the stamp you used. But if your stamp is from, say, a holiday that took place weeks ago, that won’t go unnoticed.” (Ditto if you meter the mail at your current office.) Center the addressee on the envelope and write the return address neatly, too. If you mess up, use a new envelope—don’t merely scratch it out. And make sure the stamp isn’t askew. “These might seem like little things, but when you’re trying to make a great impression, your thank you note is part of your professional image and cachet,” Gottsman explains. “Just like your tie, your blazer, or your portfolio.”
This article originally ran in 2016.