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Why Write a Note When You Can Email?

At Northern Arizona University, we are days away from graduation. The thing that makes the May 2017 graduation special to me is that my very first students from MGT 101 – Introduction to Business are graduating.

The last several weeks have been a constant flood of those students coming to me to let me know they have interviews (asking for last minute tips) or, better yet, to tell me they have received and accepted a job offer. My advice regarding writing a thank you card seems to fall on deaf ears. I can just hear them saying to themselves. “Poor Professor T. Paul, he is still living in the pre-Facebook age.” While it is true, I don’t use Facebook, I still hand write thank you notes.


Did You Write Your Thank You Notes?


I don’t open a birthday or Christmas present to this day without hearing my mom in my head saying, “Did you write your thank you notes?” It was something we learned at a young age. If someone did something for you, you owed them a thank you note. And it had to be hand written. Somewhere, the art of properly thanking someone has been lost.


Isn’t Email Faster?


The advice I give to my students is to actually take a stack of thank you notes, envelopes and stamps with you to the interview. When you finish the interview, go back to your car and write a personal note to each person who interviewed you. Thank them for taking the time to meet with you, comment on something that stood out during the interview with them (the passion they displayed, they attended the same school, taking you on a tour, etc.), and let them know you are excited about the opportunity to work with them. Drive to the nearest post office or mailbox (that’s those big blue metal boxes on the corner) and mail them.


You should also send an email, but the hand-written note is the one that will have the greatest impact.


My Note Won’t Get There in Time


My son had an interview that he was super excited about. I told him to take the thank you cards with him so that he get them in the mail after the interview. He responded, “No. They are going to give me the offer before I leave.” Contrary to what he thought, they told him at the end of the interview they would be deciding in the next week. He had missed the opportunity.


In any interview, remember you just have to be one percent better than the other candidates. Do something a little extra that no one else does. During my 30+ years of being a CEO, less than five percent of candidates ever took the time to write a hand-written thank you note. I once had four final candidates for a vice president of sales position. We spoke to all four the same day and notified the top candidate at the end of the day. Two days later, I received a thank you note from one of the candidates (Mike). Our top candidate had to withdraw his acceptance a week later because of family issues and I offered the job to Mike.


Have You Ever Seen Anyone Hang Up a Thank You Email?


Next time you walk into someone’s office or cube, look at what they have hanging up. It will be thank you notes. We all like being appreciated. While I see hand-written notes pinned to the walls or cork boards, I’ve never seen an emailed thank you pinned up. Go the extra one percent and I guarantee you it will get you where you need to go. Besides, mom always knows what is best.


On a personal note, congratulations to all the graduating seniors who took MGT 101 from me in the Fall of 2013. You 82 students helped me to see what is really important and how to have real impact. Thank you. FBN


By T Paul Thomas


T Paul Thomas teaches business and entrepreneurship at Northern Arizona University, serves as the CEO of the Northern Arizona Leadership Alliance (NALA) and is the Chief Entrepreneur at the NACET Accelerator. Prior to joining NAU in 2013, Paul spent 25 years as a serial CEO and President. Paul can be reached at thomas.tpaul@gmail.com.


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