Question & Answer
Thanks for Nothirg
The thing about thank you notes is that they may not get you the job but they can definitely lose it for you. Lawyers are extremely anal and, maybe it's an urban legend, but I have heard that some people have lost offers because of typos or other sloppiness in their thank you notes.
Dear Some People:
Well, I hope you are not included in that group of "some people" because that is a tough lesson to learn. I have discussed the danger of typos and, as you put it, other sloppiness, in thank you notes, resumes, cover letters, etc., many times before. And yes, you are correct I do know of a number of specific examples where people have lost offers, or at least the opportunity to return for call-back interviews, because of an oversight in a thank you note.
This could be attributed to lawyers being extremely anal as you have pointed out or perhaps this is simply a case of the recipient of the note realizing that the mistake indicates some serious flaws that are not acceptable when considering the hiring of a potential candidate.
Whether the thank you note is hand-written or computer generated, a mistake or typo should not happen. You should proofread a thank you note once, twice and then a third time before sending it out. You might even want to read it out loud just to be certain that there are no mistakes. This is serious stuff (and by stuff I don't mean malarkey as defined by Vice President Biden!).
I know that this column has had typos from time to time and I have an editor who proofs and edits it after I have gone over it numerous times. There is no good excuse for the typos that slip through although we try our best to not allow this to happen. But in a brief thank you note there is no excuse whatsoever. And that thank you note is the only thing at that moment standing between you and a job offer or a callback for an advanced interview.
You have described lawyers as being extremely anal but let's think about what lawyers do for a living . . . don't they really have to be incredibly thorough, meticulous and excruciatingly precise in their work or else risk everything for their clients? I suppose you might describe someone with those characteristics as anal but I think you might also describe them as the characteristics of the top attorneys.
If thorough, meticulous and precise become descriptive characteristics of successful attorneys then it would make sense that a thank you note filled with typos might raise a red flag. It might suggest to the recipient that the author was careless or rushed…exactly the qualities that could jeopardize a client and his business to the firm.
I will tell you my personal experiences with thank you notes when I have been interviewing candidates for positions with my firm. You are correct when you state that the thank you note doesn't always get you the job but I will say that it does leave a positive impression. I always remember the candidate who took the time to sit down and write a note to me thanking me for my time to meet with him/her. It's a thoughtful, polite gesture that speaks volumes to me. However, you are also correct that a poorly written thank you note might suddenly eliminate a top ranked candidate.
When I receive one of those notes that has spelled either my first or last name (or both!) incorrectly, other words throughout the note are misspelled, perhaps grammar is completely ignored, or there are other obvious mistakes throughout the note, it is hard for me to think about the thoughtful gesture instead of the careless tone. This is someone trying to impress me enough that I will bring him or her back for a second interview…is this really someone I want to represent my candidates to my clients? I don't think so.
So now take it a step further…is this someone that a partner in a law firm trusts working on assignments for his clients? I don't think so.
Instead of thinking of lawyers as being anal, start thinking of yourself as being careful when representing yourself for your career. Take the time to ask yourself how you would judge yourself if you sat in the interviewer's chair. Proof your resume, your cover letters, your thank you notes and then once you have done that, proof them again…and again. Best wishes!
Ann M. Israel