Once upon a time, long, long ago, it was customary to send out these things called “thank you notes” to express appreciation of assistance or acknowledgement of a thoughtful gesture. Cards and stationery were embossed or embellished with designs and contained handwritten words of thanks. The card was mailed out with a stamp and was delivered by a postal carrier.
Times have changed. We now live in a fast-paced world where time is of the essence and personal touches aren’t as commonplace as they once were. As a result, many folks have moved away from handwritten notes of thanks after being considered for writing opportunities or jobs in general. Most people feel that sitting down to write a thank you note takes more time than they have available, especially when punching a few keys and hitting ‘send’ takes so little time (after all, we are semi-permanently attached to our computers and smartphones, no?).
I began to wonder if the art of writing thank you notes was gone for good or if it was on the verge of extinction. I spoke with a publisher, a former editor, a former hiring manager and a representative at an employment agency to get their thoughts. Here is what I found out, and it may surprise you!
Put it in writing
When posed with the question of whether or not a thank you note would make a difference in helping a writer to be considered for future assignments or contributions to a magazine or publication, the answer was a resounding YES from Denninger Bolton, publisher at Javelina Books, and Mary Anne Connolly, former executive editor at Austin Woman Magazine and founder and CCO of M.A.Communications. They agreed that a well-written thank you note from a writer would be a welcome and pleasant surprise. “It is such a rare occurrence now, it would make a real impression on me. I love handwritten notes, especially in the age of emails and texts,” said Connolly.
Thank you notes may also help to get your work a second look…sometimes. Both Connolly and Bolton said that while a writer may not immediately receive an assignment or chance to be published, a thoughtfully crafted note would encourage them to revisit and reconsider a writer’s work. One staffing agency representative (who preferred to remain anonymous) said that because they hire talent for different clients with specific needs, thank you notes don’t really impact whether or not an individual gets reviewed again. They focus on whether or not the person is qualified — all else is secondary.
On the other hand…
Beth Sample, a former hiring manager at Holt, Rhinehart and Winston stated that notes did not sway her selections either. “My decisions were based on experience (resume) and interview (connectability). The cover letter and the thank you notes never altered my decision.” Sample also added “I didn’t hire an admin or event planner, or any position where that could be an ‘external influencer.’ I hired for technical and interpersonal skills.”
Timing is everything
Now that we know that sending a thank you note is, in some cases, potentially helpful to getting you noticed, what should the note say and when should it be sent? Across the board, the consensus was that a thank you note should be honest, thoughtful and state appreciation of the publisher, editor or interviewer’s time. Bolton felt that thank you notes should be sent out within a week of contact. He suggested sending out the note while you are still in the publisher or editor’s mind. Connolly agreed and added that after publication, up to two weeks would be appropriate to send a note unless there had been a discussion about communicating at a later specified time.
In the end, depending on the work you are doing, thank you notes may help you get a second chance. Living in a world where we work and live online, it’s nice to do something that is personal. “To me, thank you notes help build relationships rather than just doing the usual networking,” said Bolton. “It may seem old-fashioned but it makes you stand out and shows that you are genuinely thankful for the opportunity to be considered (for a particular job).”
Ultimately, it can’t hurt
As a writer, taking a few minutes to personally thank someone for looking at the work you have devoted hours, days, months or years to is a small price to pay. Even though it may not always get the results we are looking for, it can’t hurt to send out a note. It’s something that can set you apart from the masses and, with so many other writers out there, who doesn’t want that? This week I’m sending out thank you notes to those that gave so generously of their time so I could write this article. It only seems fitting.