The Art of the Thank You Note


Yesterday I got an email from a colleague, that went something like this:

“Dear Lisa, Tom, Dick and Harry,

Thanks for your help recently with selection of a restaurant meeting room with A/V equipment. Here’s a list of restaurants that I compiled with your help and the help of others……”

She then went on to list about a dozen local restaurants that met her specifications, with detailed comments about costs, room sizes, and available food. She also told us which one she picked, and why, and ended by thanking us all again for our help.

I had actually forgotten completely that a few weeks ago she emailed and asked if I knew of any local restaurants with A/V equipment where she could hold a professional meeting, and that I had sent her a suggestion or two.

Not only did she get back to everyone and thank us, but she let us know how her search turned out, and she provided a valuable list that I can use should I need to host a similar meeting.

When so many people don’t take time to say any more than “thanks”, or even “thx”, Joanne is especially memorable as someone who goes the extra step to not only thank, but also provide something of value to those who helped her. The next time she asks for information or a favor, I will not hesitate to help her out.

In my volunteer work with ACS members who are searching for new professional opportunities, I am constantly surprised at how few bother to thank the people who help them along the way. Not only those who provide advice and information, but many don’t even bother to write thank you notes after informational interviews, or even worse, after on-site interviews for new jobs. Everyone agrees you should send a thank you note within a day of an interview, but even those who know better often fail to actually get them out.

I know of many cases in which it was the personalized thank you notes, sent to each interviewer, that made the difference and got that candidate the job offer. In fact, I know of one company where the interviewers compared thank you notes, to see if they followed the same format or were personalized.

The one big controversy with thank you notes is delivery mechanism. Some people prefer email, and others prefer paper. These days, hand-written notes are so rare that when I receive one I really appreciate and treasure it – in fact I keep most of them filed in a drawer in my office. However, I do feel sorry for people who have to try to read my handwriting, and sometimes it’s hard to find the right blank card or stationary to use.

Furthermore, I know many people who do everything electronically, and prefer the speed of email thank you notes. They do get delivered much faster, and the recipient is probably more likely to store that than a piece of paper.

In the end, you should use the format and style that matches your personality, as well as that of the individual or organization to which you are going to send it. But whichever method you choose, make sure to send those thank you notes!

This article was written by scientific communication consultant Lisa M. Balbes, Ph.D. of Balbes Consultants, and author of: “Nontraditional Careers for Chemists,” published by Oxford University Press (2006).

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2 Responses to The Art of the Thank You Note

  1. [...] knows that you’ve got to send a thank you note after your interview, and yet I continue to be surprised by how many people don’t.  They really [...]

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