Thank You Note Etiquette

thank-you

The thank you note is one of the few forms of interaction that hasn’t changed much in the digital age. Written thank yous are still considered obligatory in most circumstances (both professional and personal), and I would hope that these manners are perpetuated despite the changing media.

This weekend, however, @davidneckstein, @countdasilva and I found ourselves disagreeing about content and length of a thank you note. One of us received a lovely, yet lengthy, email from a prospective candidate for one of our teams. While the email was thoughtful and harkened back to exactly what was discussed during that meeting, I believed that the correspondence was much too long. The email was 3 paragraphs of text that included highlights from entire conversation and why he or she was excited about the opportunity. Some other the readers thought that it was sincere and earnest, but even they felt it was a little over the top.

In my opinion, the perfect thank you note is 3 short sentences. I’ll use the example of a post-interview note of gratitude:

Dear X,

Thank you for taking the time to speak to me today. I especially enjoyed our conversation about xxxxx. I look forward to being in touch soon.

Best,

X

What I think is so crisp here is that you show gratitude, harken back to something in the conversation to jog their memory and show that you were listening, and then allude to future steps. In my opinion, anything beyond that is gratuitous. Also note use of the word today: don’t ever send a thank you note more than 24 hours after the meeting/dinner/party/interview, etc. In the age of instant correspondence, this is tardy.

On another note It used to be the case that interviewers would bring business cards to the interview. At some point in the discussion, either before the interview has started or as it is concluding, the interviewers hands the prospective candidate the card; in part for posterity, in part so that the interviewee remembers that person and what their job title was, and most importantly because for their email address. My banking superdays were filled with these, and I wouldn’t have been able to sort through the whirlwind of discussions without them.

In tech, however, although I usually wear the hat of an interviewer these days, I notice that this tradition is no longer alive. It is now customary to go through the recruiter to email a note of thanks to the interviewer instead of emailing directly. I would speculate this has something to do with regulating the notes and limiting the number of email addresses that are revealed. I generally don’t care, and usually provide my email address if asked.

If you forget to ask an interviewer for the best way to reach them, don’t forget to email a thank you note through an intermediary. Something is better than nothing at all.

Finally, since I have been both the sender and recipient of thank you notes, I will mention that a quick 1 sentence reply/acknowledgement of receipt is important. Saying “you’re welcome” or “it was a pleasure” in return can brighten up the day of the initial sender.

So I’m curious: what are your thoughts on thank you note etiquette? Am I wrong in thinking they should be short and sweet? Send me your thoughts @ellenjdasilva.

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Thank You Note Etiquette

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