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Stand-Out Thank-You Notes in Three Easy Steps

7/23/2008 4:17:56 PM

HCareers -- Your mother always used to nag you to write thank-you notes -- and according to a growing number of job-search experts, she was absolutely right. But while dashing off a few lines to express your gratitude for the handkerchief set that Aunt Wilhelmina sent you for your birthday might earn you a better seat at next year's Thanksgiving dinner, taking the time to put together a thoughtful, well-composed thank-you note after your next interview could do wonders for your career prospects.

A surprising number of jobseekers are intimidated by the prospect of penning post-interview thank-you notes. Faced with the daunting blankness of the note card's interior, many struggle for hours, grasping for just the right words that will convey both professional competence and since gratitude. Unfortunately, far too many jobseekers are overwhelmed and simply give up.

A Gracious Reminder of Your Strengths

According to Florence Isaacs, business correspondence expert and author of Business Notes: Writing Personal Notes that build Professional Relationships, failing to write a post-interview thank-you note is not just impolite -- it also robs jobseekers of an important opportunity to reinforce hiring managers' positive impressions of them as a candidate.

On the surface, a thank-you note may seem like a small piece of the larger job-search process. But on a deeper level, the thank-you note refreshes hiring managers' memories and lets candidates subtly re-insert themselves into the conversation at a crucial juncture in the decision-making process.

An Effective Thank-You Note is as Easy as 1, 2, 3

If you've ever suffered from thank-you-note writer's block, don't despair. A successful note is rarely more than a few lines long. In fact, once you get the hang of the structural formula that underlies an effective note, you'll be able to crank them out with no trouble at all. Here's the simple three-step process that most experts recommend

1. Offer Thanks…with a Personal Twist.

After a standard business salutation ("Ms. Smith," "Mr. Jones," etc.), the first line of your thank-you note should extend your thanks for their time and consideration, conveying that you deeply appreciated having the opportunity to meet in person and discuss the position. To further demonstrate your sincerity, try to add an observation that gives a bit of personal dimension in the next line, such as, "I really enjoyed our discussion of the future of the fine dining market."

2. Remind Them Why You're Right For the Job.

Admittedly, this part of the process can be a bit tricky. You want to strike just the right balance between humility and self-promotion, or else the impression your thank-you note reinforces may not be an entirely positive one. Set the résumé-speak aside for now and opt for a subtler approach, such as: "I would be honored to be able to put my decade of experience to use as your hotel's night auditor."

3. Seal the Deal With More Thanks…and Your Contact Info.

Believe it or not, the right way to close your note is with another round of thanks. Don't repeat the same wording you used before, if possible -- swap "appreciate" for "thankful" or "grateful," or another similar term. The last lines should express your eagerness to be in touch. Add your phone number and email address, and bow out with a professional closing sentiment, such as "Sincerely" or "Kind regards."

Writing a good post-interview thank-you note really is as simple as that! The good will you engender with this small gesture will far outweigh the time and effort it takes to craft a heartfelt but professional note. Who knows -- the next thing you're called upon to write may be a letter accepting your dream job!

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