I was discussing this idea with my friend, Rick Hertan, who is a recruiter and executive coach, and he told me a story about a candidate he once put in front of a major Midwest-based Fortune 500 company for an EVP position. The candidate was perfect for the job; he interviewed well on the first interview, and afterwards he and his girlfriend were flown out for more interviews as well as dinner with the outgoing EVP and his wife. Things went so well that he was offered the position with a generous compensation package. A week later, the company rescinded the offer, simply because the candidate did not send a thank you note!
Rick tried to rescue the deal, but he was told that they were a family-oriented company who took these types of values very seriously, and had decided that the candidate would not fit their culture. To this day, the candidate tells Rick that was the single costliest mistake he has ever made in his career.
I’m the furthest thing from an etiquette expert, so take the rest of this in that spirit. The first rule should be: write the damn note! I personally think email is fine for business dealings, although a handwritten note or letter is probably a much better idea for a social situation. Of course, it never hurts to pick up the phone and actually give thanks in person.
I’m also not an expert on how to write them. I envy people who seem to have a knack for finding just the right tone of appreciation between the extremes of gushing flattery and cold bland clichés. My best advice, judging from the ones I’ve received and really liked, are to be sincere and be specific. Let them know they are appreciated and tell them specifically how they helped you.
In this age of electronically-powered networking, it’s easy to forget the simple social graces and common courtesies, but they are so easy to do and can mean so much.
Thanks for the story, Rick!