When was the last time you sent a handwritten thank you note to show your appreciation? If your answer falls somewhere between grade school and your senior year of college, then it might be time to get back to basics with regard to expressing yourself in a hard copy, written format.
Handwritten notes don’t have to always focus on “thanks,” but more often than not, they do. Not too long ago, it wasn’t unusual at all to send handwritten notes and letters—but that was before e-mail and text. Sure, that’s a fast way to express your appreciation, but is it meaningful? After all, what you’re trying to do is create a good impression to someone who has shown an interest in you.
What Kind of Note Do You Send?
If there’s one way young CPAs communicate, you know it’s more by text than by e-mail and more by e-mail than hand writing a note. Depending on the situation, your communication style should match your personality and apply to the point you’re making. For example, if you’re confirming dinner plans, then text. If you’re sending a colleague background information about a client, write an e-mail. However, what do you do if the situation is a bit fuzzier?
Consider these three common scenarios:
You just had a job interview; do you hand write a note or send an e-mail?
- You received a referral to a prospect from a client. Do you send a note, e-mail, or just call and say thank you?
- Your boss hosted you and your Plus 1 for dinner at her house. How do you say thanks?
Of course, there is no right or wrong answers to any of these situations; you have to decide for yourself what to do, based on the circumstances, how well you know the person you’re thanking, and how you want to be perceived. You are probably already aware of protocol dictating that any job interview should be followed up with a personal thank you of some kind, even if the interview was as simple as an informational meeting.
Other scenarios require a little more reasoning with a mix of common sense. For example, if your boss invites you to dinner and the two of you get along really well, use your instincts to know how to thank her. The best way to do this is to put yourself in her shoes and try to assess what she would want—a handwritten note, e-mail, or even a “thanks” the next morning when you see her at the office.
What to Say in the Note
Let’s assume you will hand write a note. Great, but how do you get started? You work in a profession not necessarily known for the soft side of language. To avoid writing a thank you that seems eerily similar to an audit letter, try these tips:
Be authentic and use your own personal style to write. If you prefer to write in a conversational style, then stick to this approach. If you are more known for a formal style, then try that.
- Be brief. This is one time when brevity reigns supreme. The recipient will be flattered you took the time to hand write a note, so there’s no need to go above and beyond with verbiage that doesn’t apply or is too excessive. Two to three lines is usually the best way to go.
- Get in and Get out. Thank the recipient for his or her time, kindness, gift or whatever you like, add a personal note, and then finish up the note and sign your name. Adding a personal note will show the recipient that this wasn’t considered a chore to write. For a job interview, you might add a note such as, “It’s obvious how much you care about your company and its future.” If you want to thank someone for dinner, add something like, “It was great to see you and I hope we can get together again sometime soon.”
- Write legibly and slow down. If you chicken-scratch your writing, the recipient won’t be able to read what you wrote. Writing in block style may be preferred to cursive. If you write more legibly by slowing down instead of hurrying through your note, then by all means take your time.
Choose the Right Kind of Note
Sometimes, the “package” says more than the “contents.” There are numerous ways to say thank you, from purchasing a greeting card at the grocery store to buying your own personalized note cards. If you think you’ll send thank you notes on a regular basis, you’ll probably want to invest in buying cards with your name on them. This sends an even-more personal message because it shows you care about the format and style of the note you’re sending.
The most readily available source for a personal note is from a local stationery store; the staff should be willing to work with young professionals like yourself to give you the best “fit” with regard to type of note, how to style your name, font, and other details.
A Lasting Impression
You may still think writing a note is drudgery, preferring, instead, electronic forms of communication. In certain circumstances, that works just fine. However, what you’ll want to weigh is how you want to be perceived—and remembered—for the future. Making the best decision that fits your situation may make the difference between landing that next big position versus losing out to someone who gave more thought and purpose to saying thanks.