By definition it is simple and innocuous: the thank you note is a short email or message that follows a meeting or an interview, be it in person or on the phone. Another formal aspect: it is advisable that you send it on the evening after the meeting happened or the day immediately after. A final formal aspect to it: if there was a specific follow up set in the meeting or interview, then included it into the thank you note, ie. attach your CV if agreed, send some reading materials you discussed about, etc.
But beyond the formality, my experience after 20 years of networking is that a big majority of people trying to switch jobs or progress their careers, forget about this very simple tool, or, in a minority of cases, use it against themselves. Although it is not as powerful as, by itself, to secure you a job, it adds one more positive point to your candidacy as it preserves the share of mind you have with your counterparty or potential employer.
Fall of 2007: “You have to love the thank you note!”
To give you some colour into this: a fellow Argentine who was a couple classes ahead of me at Columbia, kindly self-appointed as our investment banking recruiting and networking coach. He had wise words at each step of the process and, in my case, I attribute a good part of my success for the Summer and full time job success to his advise, his crude assessment of progress and his always timely tips.
One of this was an “oda to the thank you note”. Fall 2007…I was complaining about the Nth investment bank event in the week and having to send some thank you notes as I felt exhausted in the evening, when he just said: “No…you are not understanding this game. You need to love the thank you note! Automatize it as much as possible, never mix up names or banks and be the king at it; think that it can be the decisive factor in this fully standardize banking recruitment, all else being equal versus another candidate”. And never again I complained or forgot to send a thank you note, be it after a networking/recruiting interaction or after business meetings “as a grown up”.
Let’s move to practical things to do and avoid when sending your thank you notes:
- Tone: keep it short and professional
- Title/subject: don’t get too creative. Unless something specific needs to go into the subject play it safe with something as “Great meeting you today” o “Interview yesterday”
- Content: 2 or 3 lines. Maybe 4 lines if you are attaching something. And if you agreed on a follow up, put it in the closing of the message.
- When: Keep the balance between being perceived a stalker (ie. send it as you are making your way down on the elevator) and being “too cool” (sending the thank you note 2 weeks after the meeting).
- CV: do not send your CV UNLESS you were asked to do it
- Mix up names and companies. It can happen, especially if you are in the midst of high-recruiting season during the MBA, but it is a silly way to call into question your “attention to detail” and sometimes just being crossed out because you annoyed the receiver. Do that extra round of review before sending it and and check the name please!
- Ask for favors: if it was an interview, certainly won’t be the case. If it was a networking meeting, the appropriate time to ask for favors or information is during the meeting. The follow up note might be just to remind something you spoke about but if there is something pressing that you may want to ask, it’s better to not leave it to a thank you note but rather a) Call the person b) Try to meet again c) Send a separate note. Ie. if you come see me and in the process you did not ask me to introduce you to X, Y or Z, don’t put it casually on the thank you note because a) I will probably not do it and b) It will make you look badly for not using the real live chance to ask for it.
Hope you find this useful as you continue to navigate the 2021 recruiting and networking season. On our next Blog article we will come back on a related topic or follow-up to the thank you note. Until the next time, keep your chin up and happy networking.