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The Anatomy of a Perfect Thank-You Note

As any job search advisor will tell you—and most hiring managers will happily confirm—a few little social graces can go a long way in the professional world. Genuine manners are a sign of intelligence, empathy, and complex reasoning skills, all of which are valuable in the workplace. And there's actually a darker side to this equation: Like it or not, class background is an unconscious but important factor managers rely on when making hiring decisions. So your manners, gestures, clothing, and the register of your speech should ideally reflect an upper class upbringing (regardless of your actual upbringing, which is none of your employer's business).

One of these class-signifying gestures involves a ritual known as the thank-you note. Master this move and make sure you execute it in a natural and graceful way, as if you've been crafting hand written thank-you notes all your life. Keep these tips in mind.

1. Don't skip this step.

No matter how old you are, what you look like, or where you come from, don't pass up a chance to send a thank you note. Don't assume that you're excluded from this ritual or that a note might seem odd coming from a person like you. Everyone likes receiving thank you notes. Take this opportunity to make a statement and give yourself an edge.

2. Start with the right format.

Buy a card that's small, tasteful, and blank inside. A simple striped or floral pattern will do nicely. For an extra boost, choose a pattern or image that reflects some aspect of your personal brand. Remember: red suggests passion, blue suggests calm and emotional control, yellow implies a sunny disposition, green means creativity, and orange suggests friendliness and extroversion.

3. Start right in.

Start your note with simple, informal phrasing, like: "I just wanted to thank you for…" or "Just a note to say…" or even: "I'd like to thank you (for your generous letter of recommendation, for meeting with me yesterday/ for your excellent advice/ etc, etc)." Flowery introductions and apologetic language aren't necessary.

4. Be specific.

Avoid abstractions and generalizations, like "I really appreciate what you did for me. It was great, and I feel so much gratitude." Instead, focus on specifics and concrete details, like: "I enjoyed discussing the benefits of the XYZ software system, and I hope I'll have an opportunity to participate in your upcoming implementation."

5. Go the extra mile.

Don't include gifts with your professional thank-you note, especially following an interview, since this might be misinterpreted as a bribe. But you can certainly include a photo of something that might interest your recipient, the answer to an open question, or a recommendation (as in, "Here's the name of the restaurant in Dublin that I mentioned…My wife and I loved it. Enjoy your trip!") These are all perfectly acceptable.

6. Close gracefully.

End your note with a simple statement about your hopes for the future, as in "I think XYZ Co and I will make a great match and I look forward to our next meeting!" or "I'm sure your recommendation will give me the edge I need to be considered for the role. I'll keep you posted!" After your final statement, sign off and get your note into the mail as soon as possible.

Thank-you notes are welcome and appreciated in almost every context, so if in doubt, go ahead and send one. And as you do so, keep your note clear, friendly, short, and most of all, timely. Visit MyPerfectResume for more tips that can support your job search from beginning to end.

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