Q: When do you send a thank-you note and how (email, text, a real note through the mail)? After I meet with someone on an informational basis only? After the first interview? After the second interview? When I receive a small gift from a co-worker or a boss? Is a note required every time or is an email ok?
A: A note of thanks or gratitude goes a long way in leaving a favorable impression on a professional contact. It helps to build a positive relationship with another person.
Take your cue from the other individual. Have they texted you or emailed you? If they are a “texter” then perhaps a texted thank you is ok. During the interview process, speed is sometimes a factor. An email might be best since it will arrive before a hard-copy note arrives. If interviewing, the industry can also factor into how you send your note. The tech industry, for example, skews to email.
In the examples you have given (i.e., an informational interview, first interview, second interview or small gift), I think a thank-you note is appropriate for all of these instances.
I consulted Jayne Mattson, Career Management Expert and the author of You, You, Me, You. Mattson is an expert on networking and building relationships. Mattson describes herself as a “strong advocate for sending thank-you notes as a way to develop and strengthen relationships.” In addition to a text or an email, Mattson suggests sending a handwritten personal note as well. It is another way to keep your name and your interaction with the other person fresh. “Putting forth this extra effort” will pay off according to Mattson, especially when others may not take this extra step. If you do send a thank-you note, make sure that the stationery reflects you as a professional. Mattson uses a personalized stationery with her name imprinted on the paper. The thank-you note that you use is an extension of your candidacy or your brand. Avoid stationery that is juvenile or overly informal.
A thank-you note can be separate you from others, who may not have sent a note. During discussions about candidates, we often discuss thank-you notes and share this information as part of the selection process.
Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Boston.com Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.