The Lost Art of the Thank You Note

We are the experts at relationship building, and yet, how many of us are sending ‘Thank You’ notes? Or even handwritten notes?

And I don’t mean just after an interview, but also after a KOL meeting. It can make all the difference, and yet few of us do. On the same note (pun intended), a badly written ‘Thank You’ note or email can be damaging too. So what is a good ‘Thank You’ email or handwritten note, and when do you send it?

What To Say In That Stellar ‘Thank You’ Note?

It differs slightly for a post-job interview versus a post-KOL meeting. After a job interview, your email should:

  • Express gratitude
  • Something specific about the conversation or items discussed
  • Why you are excited about the opportunity
  • Why you are a good fit for the job
  • Next steps and your contact information

After a KOL meeting your email should:

  • Express gratitude
  • Follow up on items discussed
  • The value you can add
  • Summarize action items
  • Next steps and your contact information

Express Gratitude

Hiring managers and KOLs like to work with MSLs that are generous and respectful and saying thank you is one way of demonstrating those characteristics. They took time out of their busy day to talk to you and not attend to patients or other daily or even urgent business.

Something Specific

Everyone wants to be heard and acknowledged. Hiring managers, or KOLs, don’t want to read about something you said but see a reflection of what they mentioned. Talk about a specific question they asked or a specific answer they gave to your question. Your email can be the time to build upon your discussion or correct a misconception. Of course, as an MSL, be very cautious about what you put in a permanent record, aka an email.

The Value You Can Add

KOLs, hiring managers, they are busy! Show them how you can make a difference and how excited you are about either joining the company or working together with the KOL. If this was a job interview, you want to highlight why your previous experience or skills are relevant and make you a good fit for the job.

Summarize Action Items & Next Steps

Hopefully, your meeting with the KOL or hiring manager went well. If this was a KOL meeting, this is the time to summarize action items. Are they planning on submitting an IST? Would they like some specific information? Make sure the KOL knows that you are following up and what/when it will be done.

Contact Information

Make sure your signature line not only has your correct contact information but is complete! It should be easy for whoever reads the email to be able to contact you. Make sure that your phone number is correct and can receive text messages. Some business phone apps will allow you to have a business phone number but are not able to receive text messages, so make sure you can!

The PS

Did the hiring manager or the KOL mention something personal? Don’t hesitate to put it in a PS! How did little Johnie’s baseball game go? You mentioned the coffee at the corner store, and I went and had a delicious cup, thank you for the recommendation!

The Handwritten Note

Does anyone still write them? I do! Especially if I’ve met a KOL for the first time. I follow up on my emails with a very simple handwritten note card. I thank them briefly for their time, say that I’m excited to work with them and look forward to seeing them again in the future. Make sure you add your business card, as you don’t want the KOL/hiring manager to wonder who this came from!

When to send it?

Ideally, the ‘Thank You’ email is sent within 6-8 hours post-meeting, but definitely within 24 hours. It can be challenging when you are at a conference, or if it is Friday. If my meeting is on Friday, I make sure the note goes out before 5 PM and not on the weekend, or worse, on Monday. You want to make sure you stay fresh in their minds! At conferences, this can be particularly challenging, but I always try to find some time (while at the booth?) to make sure my emails go out!

When to follow up?

If you are sending the ‘Thank You’ note expecting a response, you may be disappointed! If you get a reply, that would be very encouraging, but extraordinary. Unless, of course, there were action items that needed to be addressed. Generally speaking, it is ok to send a follow up approximately 10 days after your initial email.

How Formal Should You Be?

“Hi, Jon!” would probably not be the right way to address that international well known KOL that prefers to be addressed as Dr, or addresses you as Dr. Likewise it would be awkward if the KOL/hiring manager would prefer to be called ‘Jonathan’ and you address him as ‘Jon.’ Be sensitive and cautious. Better too formal than not!


Send it too late!

A common mistake is that the ‘Thank You’ email/note is sent days after the meeting. While it is better to send the email late than never, try to be conscious of time. You want to stay fresh in their minds!

Forget to send it to everyone you met!

Just because someone isn’t the hiring manager doesn’t mean they don’t have a say in whether you get hired or not. Likewise, the admin is the most important gatekeeper in getting you appointments! You want to be on his/her best side and to remember you for when you are looking for follow up appointments!

Send the same template to everyone!

Make sure you customize each email/note to the person you are addressing and send them individually. If at a job interview, you meet with several people, you want to make sure you acknowledge each conversation individually. When they discuss your interview, they will mention the ‘Thank You’ note and compare. Of course, if you have a joint meeting with several KOLs and you need to address action items, it will be more convenient to send 1 email.

Forget to proofread

Yes, this should be a no-brainer, but many people still forget! Spelling and grammar mistakes will look poorly on you, so take a minute and make sure everything is correct!

Follow up too much

Following up is important, and you can reply to the first email you sent, but don’t sent more than 2 emails and space them out in time. Especially when interviewing, you don’t want to come across as needy, or desperate for the job.

Wrong contact information

Maybe they’ve tried to call you, but your phone number was wrong? Or there is a letter missing in the email address you provided? Simple mistakes with huge consequences, yet I’ve seen them many times.

I’ve made some quick and very generic sample ‘Thank You’ notes, and you can download them here.

Let me know in the comments if you send ‘Thank You’ notes and what your best-practices are. I’d love to hear from you!