The Art of Being Gracious: Much Needed in Today’s Job Search

"Being gracious in life will carry you far," espoused Ted Kooser, a Pulitzer Prize winner who served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004 – 2006. When my son graduated from college in 2004, I had the honor of listening to this wise man deliver the keynote address at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Speaking to the graduates, he assured them that his words would be brief and forgave them in advance if they didn't remember much of his speech. Attracted to the speaking manner of this 35-year-career insurance man turned poet, I hurriedly reached for a scrap of paper to scribble a few notes. I felt that I was about to hear a great speech, and I did.

Kooser shared with the graduates a gem of wisdom that all job seekers would be well advised to follow. He said that when these young people left with their diploma in hand, they needed only one other thing to enter the world – a box of blank thank you notes. Yes, they needed thank you notes to acknowledge their graduation gifts, but much more than that, they would need thank you notes throughout life's journey, especially throughout their careers.

While in a job search, expressing your thanks is critical. Besides demonstrating good manners, it can keep your name and face in the forefront. Of course, the most obvious time to send a formal thank you is following a job interview – even a not-so-good interview. But there are other times when a thank you is not only good manners, but also an important career strategy:

  • You receive a referral from a networking contact / colleague / business associate – send a thank you note to show your appreciation, or sending a token thank you gift is even better.
  • You ask a colleague / peer / VIP for assistance or advice – send a thank you with a brief follow-up as to how the advice helped you.
  • You work with a recruiter who refers you to an interview with an employer – send a thank you note that will help keep your name on the recruiter's desk.
  • You get a rejection letter from an employer – send a thank you letter thanking him again for the opportunity to interview, and let him know that you would still like to work for him someday.
  • You land the job – send a thank you to each of your references no matter how many times they were or were not contacted by your prospective employers.
  • You land the job – send a thank you note to each networking contact with whom you connected throughout your job search, even if you've already thanked them in some way.
  • You land the job – send a thank you letter to your new employer reiterating the terms of your new position. This confirmation may serve you well in the future.

One debate around thank you letters centers on email vs. direct mail. I equate direct-mailed letters and cards with being gracious; email with being perfunctory. You decide how much regard you want your message to express. Make it personal and you'll make it memorable.

I'm sure you can think of more times when saying "thank you" is a good idea. I'd love to receive your comments. In conclusion, I just want to say, "Thank you," for reading my blog!

P. S. Within the past four months my son was one of nine candidates hired out of 300 applicants. Having been laid off for 10 months, he really needed this job. I wonder if his thank you note – that he hand carried to HR following his interview - had any influence in his being hired. Hmmm…

Wishing you much career success in 2010!


SPECIAL NOTE: I am honored to be a member of the Career Collective, a group of career experts who will each month share their advice and tips to enhance the management of your career. Please link to their blog posts below. Your comments are invited and appreciated. And follow our hashtag #careercollective on Twitter:

Career-Collective-original-small@MartinBuckland, Elite Resumes,  Career Trends and Transition 2010

@heathermundell, life@work, Kaizen and the Art of Your Job Search

@barbarasafani, Career Solvers, Looking Into the 2010 Careers Crystal Ball

@resumeservice, Resume Writing Blog, The Resume and Your Social Media Job Search Campaign

@kat_hansen, Quintessential Resumes and Cover Letters Tips Blog, New Year: Time to Assess Yourself and Your Career

@keppie_careers, Keppie Careers, Help for job seekers in a rut

@heatherhuhman,, Job seekers: 5 tips for making the most of 2010

@DawnBugni, The Write Solution, Ya, but

@ErinKennedyCPRW, Professional Resume Services, Advice to Job Seekers in 2010–learn Yoga?

@Chandlee, The Emerging Professional Blog, Starfish, JobAngels, and Making a Difference

@ValueIntoWords, Career Trend, Is Your Job Search Strategy a Snore?

@debrawheatman, Resumes Done Write, Making the most of a new year

@walterakana, Threshold Consulting, Starting anew – tips for truly managing your career

@careersherpa, Hannah Morgan: Career Sherpa, The Year of the Tiger

@WorkWithIllness,, Dogs Can Do It, Can You?

@JobHuntOrg,, Lifelong Learning for Career Security

@AndyInNaples, Career Success, What Are You Getting Better At? Make This the Year You Become the Best You Can Be!

@GLHoffman, What Would Dad Say, A Flash of the Blindly Obvious

@GayleHoward, The Executive Brand Blog, How are those New Year's Resolutions Panning Out?

12 thoughts on “The Art of Being Gracious: Much Needed in Today’s Job Search”

  1. This whole post is SO true, SO powerful, and SO often forgotten or lost in our rush to get the next item crossed off that endless to-do list.
    What stands out to me, and what I hadn’t ever considered before, is the you-land-the-job thank you. LOVE the idea of a thank you for hiring me which enables the newly-hired person to layout their understanding of the employment engagement! Excellent self-protection!

  2. Great post! I especially appreciate you addressing the email vs. handwritten note. It’s such an easy way to stand out, and perhaps doesn’t occur to Gen-Y job searchers as automatically as it does to people a bit older.
    Congratulations to your son! I’m sure he had some great career coaching (if that’s something a grown son will accept from Mom!)

  3. Good point, Heather, about Gen-Y more likely to choose email than snail mail for their thank you. Yet, snail mail can make an impression just for the reason that it IS different from usual. Thanks for your comments.

  4. Meg, what I loved most about your post is that you gave specific examples of when to use Thank Yous. I don’t know why it isn’t obvious, but, now there should be no excuses! Thank you!

  5. Meg,
    I couldn’t agree with you more…One of my clients recently got reconsidered–and hired–after sending a follow-up post rejection for the job.
    Your son’s story is an inspiration. Thank you for sharing.

  6. Great post Meg. I especially liked the way you compared emailing someone a thank you note as “perfunctory.” That was perfectly said…the whole article was helpful and spot on.

  7. Well done, Susan.
    Please let me add a seed of an idea to thank you notes. It relates to “civility” (Pier Forni, if you wish to explore). Our body language can also be a strong communicator of thank you when we use ‘glued eyes’ when listening, end each conversation with a handshake, and other symbolic gestures.
    Then, to be complete, the “thank you” strategy is appropriate in American culture, but not worldwide. It is not acceptable form in other cultures.

  8. Thank you for commenting on my blog post, Dan – although I’m Meg, not Susan 🙂 I’d be very interested in learning from you what the cultures are where “thank you” is not acceptable? I do work with some people outside North America and would never want to offend them.

  9. I have to ditto what’s been written but especially what Susan said. It never crossed my mind to encourage a thank you for being hired. Terrific point. Whatever you can do to help that ‘on-boarding’ process go more smoothly. Great post. Rosalind


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