Thank-you notes?
March 7, 2005 12:36 PM   Subscribe

Do thank-you notes matter?

Have thank-you notes influenced any decisions you've ever made? I'm most interested in thank-you notes related to job interviews, but I would be interested in hearing about thank-you notes related to anything from gifts to volunteer work to anything.
posted by crazy finger to Work & Money (30 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
In most circumstances, by the time the thank you note is received the decision has already been made. That is, generally a decision is made at the end of a day of interviews as to whether to bring the candidate back for more interviews or make an offer. Thank you notes are generally quite a nice thing to write, but for a job interview I question their effectiveness.
posted by caddis at 12:45 PM on March 7, 2005

Thank-you notes haven't influenced any hiring process I've been a part of (though it's not as if they hurt, either!), but personally they make a big difference for me when it comes to things like wedding and graduation presents, and also for showers. If a note isn't sent in a reasonable amount of time (2-3 weeks) I do feel slighted. I'll also sometimes send them for social situations--a friend really pitched in at a big party I threw, so I sent her a snail-mail card to express my gratitude. Email would work, too, but there's something nice about getting mail...
posted by handful of rain at 12:47 PM on March 7, 2005

I worked as an admin to an Exec VP and found it very curteous and professional when someone followed up with a thank you note/letter. I have no idea what my boss thought of it though.

And, caddis, I guess it depends on how long people take to make a decision. From what I saw, people must have gotten it out the same day as the notes tended to arrive a day to two days after the interview.

I agree that it can't hurt for interviews.
posted by evening at 12:48 PM on March 7, 2005

Definitely send a thank-you note. If you do it via email (which is perfectly fine), send an individual one to each person, NOT a single email to a bunch of addresses.

Why? Even if you're not hired, it reinforces you in the mind of everyone involved. You never know. The effort is minimal.
posted by mkultra at 12:51 PM on March 7, 2005

If it is between you and another candidate, showing that you're "business literate" enough to know to send a thank-you note may put you over the edge. I consider them when hiring at the management level and above.
posted by pomegranate at 12:54 PM on March 7, 2005

They matter (in a purely self-serving way, in addition to other reasons), becase it's a small world. People remember if you thank them, and they (may) pass this info on to other people. They may also remember if you don't thank them. So while you may not care anymore about the job you didn't get, you may care about that upcoming job in the same industry -- and the two HR people involved might have lunch together. "There's this really nice guy. We didn't hire him, but he sent such a nice note! You should really think about hiring him..."

Also, different people have different "politeness" expectations. I learned this recently here, in a thread about contacting people after a bad date. Many here suggested no contact at all (just let it fade away). I would be HORRIBLY offended by that. I expect at least a "thanks but no thanks." Since people differ, why not go the most conservative route and write the note? At worst, it will do nothing. But I've never heard of anyone being offended by a thankyou note.
posted by grumblebee at 12:59 PM on March 7, 2005

For jobs: I'll fire off a thank-you email as soon as possible afterward. I think it helped get my current position, but you can't be sure.

For gifts: as soon as I can, but I usually forget and put it off for a month. Still feel guilty, though. I prefer to thank in person than writing a note.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 1:09 PM on March 7, 2005

I have done favors for people before that were quite a bit of effort, and a couple of times I felt like the people were totally ungrateful. For most people it isn't necessary, because I could tell they appreciated what I did, but if the ungrateful bastards had sent a note, I would at least have known they weren't ungrateful bastards. And I'm probably not helping them again. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice... you won't fool me again!
posted by grouse at 1:10 PM on March 7, 2005

Family feuds lasting for generations have been sparked by the mere forgetful oversight of a wedding gift "Thank you" note. Beware.
posted by Shane at 1:10 PM on March 7, 2005

In my experience they don't hurt, unless they're written in an obnoxious sucking up style. A brief, professional thank you will, as mentioned above, keep your name in the mind of the interviewing team.

For gifts and such, people should realize that there are different standards depending on whether I'm the one sending them or I'm the one receiving them. They should definitely send thank you notes to me when I've sent them something, but they should realize that I'm too busy to send thank you notes, and that therefore it's *not* rude when they don't receive a thank you note from me.
posted by jasper411 at 1:14 PM on March 7, 2005

I think they're silly. If you want to thank someone, thank them. No need for a note.

My opinions are not those of society at large, however.
posted by squidlarkin at 1:25 PM on March 7, 2005

People who email and ask me advice on breaking into a career, if I respond to them, should definitely write back to say 'thanks'. When an entry-level position comes up, I pass it to the advice-seekers who wrote a thank you note back for my time. (It also shows you're really trying to break into the career path and not just idly curious about what it would be like to have a "cool" job.)

For gifts, I think so long as the gift is mentioned again in the future, notes aren't strictly necessary (except for weddings). Actually, I would much rather get a note that says, "I am wearing the boots you gave me today!" rather than the dutiful "thank you for the boots, they look cool," the day after the gift was received.
posted by xo at 1:29 PM on March 7, 2005

One purpose of thank-you notes beyond expressing thanks is to let the giver know that the gift arrived if it was shipped. I often use online gift registries to send a gift to someone who is out of town, and without a note I have no idea whether or not the gift made it. I really don't like to be in the position of having to make an awkward inquiry after a month about whether I need to work with Pottery Barn or UPS to figure out where the soup tureen went...

The next time you're at a stationary store, try stocking up on some general-pupose cards. Then the next time you've got occasion to send a thank-you note, it'll be that much easier to do.
posted by handful of rain at 1:38 PM on March 7, 2005

Yes, they matter for job interviews! The job I have right now, which has turned into something of a dream position, can be tracked back directly to the fact that I was the ONLY candidate that sent one. And I sent an actual note card, not just an email.
posted by FlamingBore at 2:04 PM on March 7, 2005

I should mention though, that the position that I was inteviewing for involved "high-touch" and detailed follow-thru, so it was really an extension of the interview.
posted by FlamingBore at 2:06 PM on March 7, 2005

If you're wondering to yourself whether to send a thank-you note for any given gift or occasion, your default answer should be 'yes'. There are certainly times when a verbal thanks will suffice, but there are no times at which a note is inappropriate, and many instances in which the lack of a note is a major offense.

When a note is not required, a casual e-mail thanks is a good idea, if only to get e-mail addresses copied into each other's computers in a business situation. No matter how informal the thanks, though, it must be personal, not pre-written or mass-mailed.

I like postcards for casual thank-yous, but they take more time to arrive than envelope mail and therefore might not be the best choice for a business or otherwise time-sensitive situation.
posted by obloquy at 2:08 PM on March 7, 2005

I think it's odd to send a thank you for a job interview. The employer should thank you for coming in, too. But in a tight job market, every little bit may help. They are a must if someone has taken the time for an informational or networking interview.

Personal thank yous are really nice, especially when unexpected.

Thank you, Ask.Me.
posted by theora55 at 2:10 PM on March 7, 2005

I've been coached to bring a thank you note along to a job interview, stamped and everything, so that immediately afterwards you can write something thoughtful and specific and drop it into the mail. With any luck it should arrive the next day. I have a friend who did this and after she got hired her boss mentioned how nice the note was and how it was the only one they received.
posted by bonheur at 2:25 PM on March 7, 2005

Well, it definitely depends on your job field whether you are responsible for writing a thank-you letter or not. For a technical job or IT position, they are evaluating you on your finite skills as opposed to writing samples. However, in my field of philanthropy, non-profit, and arts organizations, it's imperative to write a thank-you letter to follow-up from the interview. I think that these organizations rely on thank-you letters (or 'letters of acknowledgement') in their everyday correspondence, and I've written more than I care to catalogue.

When I was interviewing out of college for a job in a NYC cultural institution six years ago, all venues I interviewed at (Museum of Natural History, MoMA, Guggenheim, Jewish Museum and Christies) used the thank-you letter after the interview as a strict gauge of your writing skills. This was even told to me by two separate interviewers, as they finished the interview by requesting a follow-up note that would showcase my writing skills. (I must suck as a writer because I didn't end up at any of those institutions.)

For my personal life, I always *always* thank people via snail-mail hallmark cards for dinners, gifts, lunches, and other special occasions where something has been extended or given to me. It's really an etiquette issue for me, and i try to adhere to a certain standard for special people who make some sort of impact in my life. I've found that some of my friends who don't personally write thank you letters feel entitled to a lot of things, and are not the most humble, grateful people i've met. I guess it all depends on what you're used to. It's just in my vernacular to send and recieve thank-yous'.
posted by naxosaxur at 2:29 PM on March 7, 2005

I think they matter for volunteer work, and have been a positive factor influencing my desire to continue volunteering with an organization. I still keep one special thank you card that has everyone's signature on it with brief notes about how they liked the outings I that I offered at the center where I volunteered.
posted by PY at 3:15 PM on March 7, 2005

For my personal life, I always *always* thank people via snail-mail hallmark cards for dinners, gifts, lunches, and other special occasions where something has been extended or given to me.

I try very hard to be this way. I have a stack of nice-ish looking handmade postcards and a drawer full of stamps. If I go travelling and stay at someone's house, or someone buys me a meal or anything outside of the ordinary I'll often try to send a nice note when I get home. Usually if I'm thinking about it, I'll take a picture of my friends and/or me and them and print out a copy on my little inkjet printer and put it on the postcard. I figure when you're sleeping on people's couches, or even in their guestroom, anything you can do to say "I appreciate this" is useful [in addition to doing a sinkful of dishes].

On the other hand, I don't send thank you notes after job interviews just because the culture here in Vermont libraryland seems to me to be pretty informal. As a librarian, I've gotten a lot of thank you notes and little certificates as ways of saying thanks for me coming to give a presentation or guiding a tour and I really like them and hang them on my wall. I don't notice their absence if a group doesn't send one to me, but I like the ones I do get.
posted by jessamyn at 3:44 PM on March 7, 2005

Never in my life have I ever formed an expectation that some deed I did or gift I gave should result in me receiving a thank you note.

Nor has the prospect of receiving thank you notes ever been any part of my motivation for helping anyone, whether on the first or subsequent occurrences of something passing from me to a particular recipient.

Receiving thank you notes makes me wonder what my reciprocal obligations are. A phone call? An extended mention the next time we meet? It leaves me uncomfortably unsure, and under the Golden Rule renders me more likely to deliver my own thank yous in conversations, in person if the that's how the initial even happens, or on the phone if we're separated, so any response is as effortless as possible. I feel it rude to have my thank you leave a lingering sense of obligation.

As for job interviews, it has never even occurred to me to send or expect any written form of thank you, so count me with theora55 on that aspect. Frankly, there's no sign it's been any sort of impediment in my career. But from a purely mercenary perspective, I can see the utility of employing a "thank you" technique that does create a sense of obligation on the part of the recipient. Perhaps that's the real point.
posted by NortonDC at 4:01 PM on March 7, 2005

I have a stack of nice-ish looking handmade postcards and a drawer full of stamps. If I go travelling and stay at someone's house, or someone buys me a meal or anything outside of the ordinary I'll often try to send a nice note when I get home.

You've inspired me. I don't think this sort of thing is expected in Australia at all (perhaps it is, and I'm simply uncouth), but I can imagine what a warm and fuzzy feeling it must give the sender and the receiver, especially if it's completely unneccesary. Such a simple way to make somebody's day.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 5:10 PM on March 7, 2005

NortonDC: Not sending thank-you notes because you feel guilty when you get them yourself is not a very good reason. Some people question their 'lingering senses of obligation' and find that expressing gratitude when it is called for clears it right up. Anyway, a thank-you note is usually the completion of an obligation, or recognition of obligation on the part of the sender, not the beginning of some new obligation. Nothing need be done but enjoy the sentiment.

No one has said that people should get thank-yous merely because of a sense of entitlement to them, nor that one should be motivated toward kindness or assistance solely because of a thank-you. There are, however, some situations (such as gifts received by mail) in which not sending some form of acknowledgement, even with the best intentions or reasons, can easily be construed as ungracious, if not ungrateful and rude. In other words, there are lots of reasons to consider expressing one's thanks beyond the purely "mercenary".
posted by obloquy at 5:19 PM on March 7, 2005

obloquy, there's a difference between a thank you and a thank you note that informs my answers. Nowhere do I advocate failing to be thankful; I merely advocate forms other than notes, and it is the notes themselves that, in a business context, certainly do have mercenary aspect, whether it is polite to acknowledge that or not.
posted by NortonDC at 6:48 PM on March 7, 2005

I have a stack of nice-ish looking handmade postcards and a drawer full of stamps.

This really helps one follow-up on the desire to write more thank-you notes/letters. I have nice note cards with my name on them, and always have stamps, and I have a nice little red stationary box that everything lives in. Just thinking about it makes me want to find someone to write to, and makes it easier to write those thank-you notes that need writing.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:14 PM on March 7, 2005 [1 favorite]

My old boss opened and distributed all mail in the company I worked for. I can directly attribute a larger-than-usual raise one year to several very nice thank notes from customers that arrived in the weeks before my review. So yes, please do send them if it crosses your mind.
posted by cali at 11:03 PM on March 7, 2005

I'm an academic and maintaining a network of contacts is essential to ongoing work. Thank you's for people who provide information you ask for or who grant an interview are essential for politeness and (IMHO) help to reinforce you to the person, who you might want to have something to do with in future.
With this kind of politeness it's not a straightforward matter of someone saying 'gosh, I think more highly of that person for having sent this', more about creating a general impression that you are a pleasant person to be in contact with. To me, essential if I'm asking for people's time against what is often no quantifiable benefit for them. Obviously it's one element amongst many but still worthwhile.
posted by biffa at 1:37 AM on March 8, 2005

Not decisions, but man, people remember. I have a friend who got married over 3 years ago, and I STILL think occaisonally about the fact that not only did I not get a thank you note, but I didn't even get acknowledgement that my gift had arrived (I mailed it and drove over three hours for the wedding). I love him dearly, but it still hurts that they didn't bother when I put so much thought and time into it.

They matter.
posted by agregoli at 7:29 AM on March 8, 2005

I use them in both personal and business matters. It's just plain classy. And the fact that a lot of you don't use 'em is fine by me: makes mine stand out more.
posted by Tacodog at 8:24 AM on March 8, 2005

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