Always Say Thank You.
Even though Thanksgiving is now in our rear-view mirror, reflecting on gratitude over the holiday weekend made me think of a topic that many lawyers frequently ask for guidance on — post-interview thank you notes. One lesson I learned early in life was to always say thank you. I get questions on this topic from attorneys of all levels, partners, counsel and associates, ranging from whether and when to send notes, as well as suggestions on content. When attorneys ask if they should send a thank you note post interview, my answer is yes – but I recommend following a few simple rules. In this competitive market, it is important to positively distinguish oneself. It is also important to take every opportunity to engage personally and professionally. I believe that thank you notes are a small but powerful way to further these goals, setting oneself apart from the pack (in a good way). Therefore, I advise the attorneys I work with on the following five main areas to ensure this is accomplished:
- Know Your Audience: Write a separate thank you note email to each person you met (whether group or individual meetings). A thank you note can be a powerful tool to bolster a positive impression. To ensure it does not have the opposite effect, it is important to pay extra attention to detail when drafting your thank notes. This includes accurate references to conversations and correct spelling of names and firm/companies. If you opt to send a hand-written note, ensure that you have crisp and clear hand-writing. I recommend keeping a note professional but not overly formal. Always remember if the note is forwarded on, it should be an accurate representation of your work as an attorney.
- One-Size-Does-Not-Fit-All: When writing thank you notes, it is important to take the time to personalize content. I highly recommend that my candidates avoid cutting and pasting a single e-mail to multiple recipients. This does not mean one needs to draft long emails or spend long periods of time on them. In fact, it is perfectly acceptable to “recycle” the opening and closing. And contrary to sending a long email, it is preferable to keep your messages concise (I suggest a length between 3-7 lines). Overall, best practice is to write a note which is short, professional, specific, warm, and an extension of your conversations. Think of the note as an opportunity to continue your dialogue – ask a follow up question, build on that connection or reiterate the common thread you found.
- Advocate for Fit and for Value: A thank you note is a great opportunity for you to provide specificity in why you are particularly interested in the firm and opportunity due to skill, culture or your experience based on the newly acquired context from your meeting. Ultimately, people appreciate seeing that you understand what drives their organization and that you share these common values or goals. Highlighting these strengths also provides you an opportunity to summarize how you can use this new platform to add value to the firm or to build out a stronger practice.
- Hammer Home Commonalities: A gentle reminder in your thank you note highlighting commonalities with the interviewer is a great item to include. If you and an interviewer discussed something you have in common (e.g., you both do pro bono work for the same cause or nonprofit organization, you shared a common approach to your practice, or you attended the same alma mater) – I always suggest including a reference and reminder in your note.
- Timing Matters: Aim to send out thank you emails promptly after your meetings. “Prompt” translates to sending out the evening of your interviews or the next day, but no later than 2 business days post-interview. If you choose to opt for a hand-written thank you note, I suggest putting this in the mail same day as the interview to ensure timely receipt. I also suggest saving hand-written notes for following up on a one-on-one interview (vs. a group interview).
In conclusion, it is important to remember that while thank you notes are small gestures on their face, they are an avenue to connect personally and professionally, to see your communication style and to allow you to highlight important points. Therefore, they have the potential of making a more powerful impression. I would also remind clients that a well-timed thank you email to a candidate of high interest is a highly impactful way to potentially boost candidate engagement, communicate the firm’s seriousness and differentiates the firm as well.
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