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Thank you note or not?

Q: I recently interviewed for a job on a very informational basis. I met with the department manager who is trying to get the new position added to his team in early 2012. I was referred to the department manager by my brother-in-law who knows this guy through professional channels. My brother-in-law asked me how the interview went and I told him I thought it went very well. My brother-in-law asked me if I sent a thank-you note or email to the guy after we met. I didn’t send a thank-you note because it didn’t really feel like a formal interview. The department manager took me to lunch but we only talked about the possible role for about 30 minutes. The rest of the time we talked about sports, changes in our field and our families. My brother-in-law is now clearly irritated at me and insists I should have thanked this guy with a note or an email. I think a handshake and a verbal thank-you right after the lunch were fine to thank him. What is the protocol for sending a thank-you note? In the past, I have sent thank-you notes but only if there was a “real job” at stake. My brother-in-law and I agreed to send this to this column and you would tell me if I should have sent a thank-you note (or email).

A: There is nothing like a good family dispute to spice up holidays, cookouts and other family gatherings! However, I might disappoint you with my response.

I agree with your brother-in-law. In fact, I would probably push it one step farther. I think you owed a thank-you note/email to the department manager AND your brother-in-law.

Let me explain, starting with your brother-in-law. Your brother-in-law became aware of a possible job opportunity that might be of interest to you. You want him to continue passing these job leads to you. A quick email, saying “Hey, thanks for the heads up! I appreciate you forwarding me this contact. I will follow-up with this guy and keep you posted.”

You should have absolutely thanked the department manager in a more formal way. For some companies, a note (via mail) is still the expectation. For many companies, a quick email would have been perfectly acceptable. It sounds like this department manager treated you to lunch (this is my assumption) and then talked with you about a possible opportunity as well as other common interests. He took the time out of his day to meet with you in person, probably because of his relationship with your brother-in-law! Anytime another individual meets with you to talk about your career or an opportunity for you, then a thank-you note should be sent.


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