Ask The Headhunter: A thank-you note is not enough

Sending a hand-written thank you note is important, but not enough by itself, says headhunter Nick Corcodilos. Photo by Flickr user happy_serendipity.

Sending a hand-written thank-you note is important, but not enough by itself, says headhunter Nick Corcodilos, to show that you’re the best hire. Photo by Flickr user happy_serendipity.

Nick Corcodilos started headhunting in Silicon Valley in 1979, and has answered over 30,000 questions from the Ask The Headhunter community over the past decade.

In this special Making Sense edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards, or salary negotiations. No guarantees — just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.

Question: When I apply for jobs, I rarely get acknowledgements from employers, much less a thank-you for applying. I used to always send thank-you notes after interviews. But it seems the standard has changed. Are thank-you notes a waste of time?

Nick Corcodilos: The next 99 people you encounter might be uncouth. But your high standards of behavior will show them up every time. And when you encounter a polite, professional employer, your own behavior will mark you as one of their kind.

Always keep your standards high, and always send a thank-you note. (See the short article, “Raise your standards.”) But a thank-you note by itself is not enough to demonstrate that you’re the best hire.

There’s a section of “Fearless Job Hunting, Book 8: Play Hardball With Employers” (pp. 21-22) that addresses this head-on, and I’m reprinting that section of the book here.

Don’t let anyone convince you that employers don’t care about thank-you notes after job interviews. Good business people value courtesy and follow-up. But you can take a thank-you note a step further: Fill it with help and expertise. For example:

“Thanks for the stimulating discussion. Each time we talk, I’m more intrigued and excited about the prospect of working with you. In the meantime, you might be interested in this article I ran across. It’s on the subject of xyz, and I think some of these ideas might be applied to the challenge you’re facing that we discussed in our meeting. Best regards.”

On the clipping, handwrite “To: [manager’s name]” and “From: [your name, e-mail address, and phone number].” Mark up two or three relevant passages in the article, and add one or two short notes in the margin. Be careful: Your comments must be thoughtful and relevant to the discussions you had, and they must provide useful information to the manager. This must not be gratuitous. Since the clipping should be annotated, you’ll want to PDF it so it can be e-mailed with your handwritten comments intact.

Thank-you notes from other candidates will get tossed out. Your clipping is more likely to be re-read and shared with others on the manager’s team, if it’s really useful. Hand-written means you took time with it, and makes it personal. Your contact information provides an instant way for the manager (or anyone else that reads it) to reach you. Any personal edge on this communication creates an advantage for you.

Including a relevant clipping with a thank-you note emphasizes your focus on something you and the employer have in common — the work you both do. And, it points out that you’re in touch with the issues. The tone of your note emphasizes that you’re a peer, not just some job hunter who dropped in off the street. Be respectful but not overly formal. Address the manager as though she’s your boss, not an interviewer.

Like your boss, an employer wants your expertise and your help, so don’t waste a chance to deliver that when you follow up. Thanks is not enough.

(The PDF book “Fearless Job Hunting, Book 8: Play Hardball With Employers” that this column is excerpted from is available in the Ask The Headhunter Bookstore.)

Dear readers: Do you send thank-you notes? If you’re a manager, does it matter when a job applicant sends one?

Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sense readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth “how to” PDF books are available on his website: “How to Work With Headhunters…and how to make headhunters work for you,” “How Can I Change Careers?”, “Keep Your Salary Under Wraps” and “Fearless Job Hunting.”

Send your questions to Nick, and join him for discussion every week here on Making Sense. Thanks for participating!

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