There will be many times over the course of your professional development where it is respectful and useful to send a thank you letter to show gratitude. This could be to a potential employer after an interview, at the completion of an internship, to a teacher who has been a significant role model or to someone who has agreed to write you a reference. There is no downside when it comes to taking the time to be thankful for opportunities and guidance.
The value of saying thanks. Sending a thank you letter, first and foremost, will make you stand out. If you’re trying to gain employment, an interviewer will look more favorably upon the candidates that chose to reach out and say thanks over those who didn’t. Thank you notes can also help build and maintain strong connections. Upon leaving an internship, a thank note could ensure you are asked back as a permanent employee in the future. Regardless of the circumstances, people respond well to being thanked and are more likely to give you opportunities if they know you are grateful for their help.
Make it personal. This starts by addressing the letter appropriately, especially if you are writing a post-interview thank you note. Don’t just address the note “To whom it may concern,” learn the name of who interviewed you and address them specifically, “Dear Mr/Mrs last name.” You should also avoid generic phrases. Give specific details highlighting what you’re thankful for, why you are thankful and how their time will help you grow in the future.
Choose the right medium. A handwritten letter is more personal and shows that you put a lot of thought into the process of saying thank you. In most cases, this should be your first choice. However, there are exceptions. If you have exceptionally bad handwriting, a word processed letter may be a better option. Sometimes you may not have a physical address, especially with a professor, in which case email is an acceptable choice. Email is also acceptable if most of your prior communication has occurred via email.
Proofread. This cannot be stressed enough. Even if you are typing your thank you letter or emailing it, proofread it several times before you send your final draft. Autocorrect doesn’t catch everything and one small mistake could ruin the effect of the letter. It always helps to have a second pair of eyes, so consider asking a friend or colleague to proofread your letter as well.
Send a gift. While inappropriate in certain situations, such as a post-interview thank you, a gift can be a little something extra to show how much you appreciate the time someone spent helping you. It doesn’t have to be huge, just something small to show the person you value them. For example, a gift card to the campus coffee shop for a professor, or offering to take a business reference out to dinner. A small gesture to accompany your letter can show your genuine appreciation.
Need some help proofreading? Next Step Academy’s “Basic Grammar/Writing Toolkit” for useful tips and editing advice.