The Anatomy of a Flawless Business Thank You Note

Posted by Bridget Beirne
April 15, 2016

bridget-beirne-1.pngGratitude is an amazing thing to receive. Our lives move very fast, and it's easy to feel overworked, overwhelmed, and underappreciated. But when someone takes the time to say thank you, you get to take a moment to feel valued. That sender has put a spotlight on your efforts. It feels good.

It's also good business. Post-interview, it certainly never hurts to put your name back in front of people with a professional, well-written thank you note. But the writing of thank you notes shouldn't be purely mercenary. The Dali Lama puts it this way: "The roots of all goodness lie in the soil of appreciation for goodness." Showing gratitude is good for all involved.

Here are some times it's nice to say thanks to those who deserve it with a business thank you note:

  • When someone has gone above and beyond on a project.
  • When you've been awarded a special recognition or honor.
  • When you've been promoted.
  • When you've had an interview.
  • When someone has helped you get an interview.
  • When a colleague has helped "make the impossible happen" for you or a client (think about the executive assistant who rescheduled all of your travel to accommodate one event...).
  • Any time you feel written gratitude it warranted. (That's right, ANY time.)

As we've mentioned before, we're fans of the handwritten thank you note. Of course, we business-thank-you-note.jpgknow that many business thank yous are sent via email. Either way, there are a few things that every good thank you note should include:

1. An appropriate greeting: "Dear" is always acceptable, but "Hello" and "Hi" are ok, too. (This isn't the time for "Hey", etc.) Remember to consider your relationship when it comes to addressing the recipient. While the vast majority of professionals operate on a first name basis, if you're introduced to someone as "Dr.", "Mr.", or "Ms.", use that version of their name until they tell you to do otherwise.

Of course, double check the spelling of their name! The misspelling of names says that you don't care enough about the person in question to learn the basics — even though you're doing something nice like saying thanks. 

2. A concise, yet specific, body: Keep it short and sweet, and know you can show your personality without feeling pressured to bring out the poet in you. If you've got a long standing, personal relationship with a colleague, and you want to tell them how much they've meant to you, then by all means, bring out the feelings! But even then, you don't have to. The vast majority of business thank you notes are better for everyone when brevity is exercised.

Here's a good formula for coming up with a note that says what you need:

"I wanted to say "thank you" for___________________.
(i.e., your hard work on the "Dream Project"/the Founder's Award, etc.)

I really appreciate____________________and ____________________.
(the super long hours/this special honor) and  (your engaging presentation/the legacy that comes with this award)

In the future, I hope to__________________.
(create more fabulous products with you!/live up to your recognition)"

You've let them know briefly, yet specifically, exactly what you're thanking them for, the impact it's had on you, and how it will influence your life going forward. 

3. An appropriate closing: Do write some kind of closing, beyond just your name or your email signature: "Best regards" "Thank you, again", "Cheers!", whatever professional closing you like. Just be sure to include one.

If you don't know the person you're thanking incredibly well, use your last name in your sign off, too. You'll help keep a work acquaintance from saying, "Now, was that John from Marketing? Or John from the event company?" Sure, in an email your last name may be in there somewhere, often in your email address itself. Regardless, including it in your closing saves your recipient from having to track it down.

A few things to leave out of your business thank you note:

  • Emojis: OK, you may have an "emoji relationship" with a colleague. But as a rule, save this for an email to your Aunt Tilly. That goes for smiley faces in your handwritten notes, as well.

  • An "ask": No matter what you're thanking people for, let this note be only about thanks. Don't include an "ask": "Can you let me know when you're making final decisions?" "Is there a time we can talk about the next conference?" "Would you mind passing my name to your associate?" Save that for a separate follow-up, if needed. 

    What you can do is express wishes for a future connection: "Hope to speak with you again soon." "Looking forward to next year's conference!" "Here's to more combined efforts.", etc.

  • Lengthy tomes: Again, don't feel pressure to write the great American novel of thanks. Think simple, honest, brief. It will still go a long way.

Gratitude is good for both the giver and the receiver, and a great business thank you note can make for a more positive work life. It's easy (and necessary!) to say thanks.

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