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7 Smart Tips for Writing a Proper—and Professional—Thank You Note

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Think a post-job interview thank you note has gone the way of calling cards and phone books? Think again. Especially in the digital age, a handwritten message is a nice gesture, and an easy way to stand out in a pool of equally qualified applicants. It’s as simple as this: Be yourself, write it down, and get it in the mail, pronto. Here’s how.

1. STOP WASTING TIME.

When it comes to thanking an interviewer or potential boss for their time, don’t drag your feet. “Shooting them a note quickly doesn’t look desperate or needy—it looks interested,” says etiquette expert Diane Gottsman, who runs The Protocol School of Texas, a firm that specializes in etiquette training for corporations, universities, and individuals.

Her policy? Send a quick email later that day, then write a handwritten note within 24 hours. “Often, we worry about doing too much or too little,” she says. “And when that happens, we freeze.” Avoid stagnation by adopting this two-pronged approach for all professional and networking interactions.

2. YES, YOU REALLY SHOULD SEND A HANDWRITTEN THANK YOU.

You might be thinking that snail mail is so 1995. But after your initial email (which you’ll send, ideally, before close of business the day of your interview), get ready to put pen to paper. “It’s just a little bit of effort,” says Gottsman. “But if you’re neck-and-neck with another candidate, this could set you apart.” 

3. BUT FIRST, MAKE LIKE GRADE SCHOOL AND WRITE A ROUGH DRAFT.

Before you bust out the stationery, gather your thoughts. Feel free to write a quick draft on the computer, but also take a piece of scratch paper and actually write the message out. Write slowly. Write legibly. Bonus points if you trace an outline of your stationery onto a piece of printer paper or a memo pad, so you’ll see how the note will fit in the space available.

4. KEEP THE NOTE PROMPT AND MAKE THESE THREE KEY POINTS.

Thank the interviewer for his or her time, reiterate your interest in the opening, and draw a connection between your experience and the role. This thank-you won’t be all that different from your initial email, says Gottsman: “It’s okay to be a little bit repetitive here. By the time the person receives this thank-you, he or she might have met a handful of other candidates.”

Be yourself (your professional self, that is) and sincere—and don’t be afraid to show a little emotion or enthusiasm. “A hiring manager is looking for someone who’s competent, sure, but they’re also looking for someone who wants this job and plans to stay awhile,” she explains. Keep it short; if you’ve written more than six or so sentences, it’s too long. Open the note with “Dear” and close it with something simple, like “Sincerely" or “Best wishes.” This isn’t the place for a “Cheers” or a “Fingers crossed!”

5. PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT. (SO DOES PROOFREADING.)

More likely than not, your penmanship has … suffered a bit as you’ve gotten older. These days, you might hand-write (or scribble) only the grocery list. So if you need to, write that rough draft a few times to practice your spacing. Once you’ve penned the note on stationery (more on that below), give it a thorough check. “Nobody’s going to ding you for messy handwriting, as long as they can read it,” Gottsman says. Will someone else be able to tell the difference between an o and an a? Is everything spelled correctly? If you don’t trust yourself, snap a photo of your note and email or text it to a trusted friend for a once-over.

6. INVEST IN SOME REAL STATIONERY.

“It doesn’t have to be expensive,” Gottsman says. “Your cardstock just needs to feel high quality and look professional.” Contrary to popular belief, the card itself needn’t say the words “Thank You!” A better choice: Your initials or monogram, your name, or a small symbol or icon. Keep it simple.

7. PAY ATTENTION TO EVERY DETAIL.

“In correspondence like this, everything counts,” Gottsman says. “I might not mean to judge you based on the stamp you used. But if your stamp is from, say, a holiday that took place weeks ago, that won’t go unnoticed.” (Ditto if you meter the mail at your current office.) Center the addressee on the envelope and write the return address neatly, too. If you mess up, use a new envelope—don’t merely scratch it out. And make sure the stamp isn’t askew. “These might seem like little things, but when you’re trying to make a great impression, your thank you note is part of your professional image and cache,” Gottsman explains. “Just like your tie, your blazer, or your portfolio.”

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The Only Way to Answer ‘What Is Your Greatest Weakness?’ In a Job Interview
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Thanks in part to the influence of Silicon Valley and its focus on the psychological probing of job applicants, interview questions have been steadily getting more and more abstract. As part of the interview process, today's job seekers might be asked to describe a vending machine to someone who’s never seen one before, or plan a fantasy date with a famous historical figure.

Even if the company you’re approaching isn’t fully on board with prodding your brain, at some point you may still come up against one of the most common queries applicants face: "What is your greatest weakness?"

"Some 'experts' will tell you to try and turn a strength into a 'weakness,' to make yourself look good," writes Inc. contributor Justin Bariso. "That advice is garbage."

"Think about it," Bariso continues. "Interviewers are asking the same question to countless candidates. Just try and guess how many times they hear the answers 'being a perfectionist' or 'working too much.' (Hint: way too often.)"

While responding that you work too hard might seem like a reliable method of moving the conversation along, there’s a better way. And it involves being sincere.

"The fact is, it's not easy to identify one's own weaknesses," Bariso writes. "Doing so takes intense self-reflection, critical thinking, and the ability to accept negative feedback—qualities that have gone severely missing in a world that promotes instant gratification and demands quick (often thoughtless) replies to serious issues."

Bariso believes the question is an effective way to reveal an applicant’s self-awareness, which is why companies often use it in their vetting process. By being self-aware, people (and employees) can correct behavior that might be affecting job performance. So the key is to give this question some actual thought before it’s ever posed to you.

What is your actual greatest weakness? It could be that, in a desire to please everyone, you wind up making decisions based on the urge to avoid disappointing others. That’s a weakness that sounds authentic.

Pondering the question also has another benefit: It prompts you to think of areas in your life that could use some course-correcting. Even if you don’t land that job—or even if the question is never posed to you—you’ve still made time for self-reflection. The result could mean a more confident and capable presence for that next interview.

[h/t Inc.]

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11 Behind-the-Scenes Secrets of TV Meteorologists
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The first weather forecast to hit national network television was given in 1949 by legendary weatherman Clint Youle. To illustrate weather systems, Youle covered a paper map of the U.S. in plexiglass and drew on it with a marker. A lot has changed in the world of meteorology since then, but every day, millions of families invite their local weatherman or weatherwoman into their living room to hear the forecast. Here are a few things you might not know about being a TV meteorologist.

1. SOME PEOPLE JUST NEVER MASTER THE GREEN SCREEN.

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On-camera meteorologists might look as if they’re standing in front of a moving weather map, but in reality, there’s nothing except a blank green wall behind them. Thanks to the wonders of special effects, a digital map can be superimposed onto the green screen for viewers at home. TV monitors situated just off-camera show the meteorologist what viewers at home are seeing, which is how he or she knows where to stand and point. It’s harder than it looks, and for some rookie meteorologists, the learning curve can be steep.

“Some people never learn it,” says Gary England, legendary weatherman and former chief meteorologist for Oklahoma’s KWTV (England was also the first person to use Doppler radar to warn viewers about incoming systems). “For some it comes easily, but I’ve seen people never get used to it.”

Stephanie Abrams, meteorologist and co-host of The Weather Channel’s AMHQ, credits her green screen skills to long hours spent playing Nintendo and tennis as a kid. “You’ve gotta have good hand-eye coordination,” she says.

2. THEY HAVE A STRICT DRESS CODE.

Green is out of the question for on-air meteorologists, unless they want to blend into the map, but the list of prohibited wardrobe items doesn’t stop there. “Distracting prints are a no-no,” Jennifer Myers, Dallas-based meteorologist for KDFW FOX 4 writes on Reddit. “Cleavage angers viewers over 40 something fierce, so we stay away from that. There's no length rule on skirts/dresses but if you wouldn't wear it to a family event, you probably shouldn't wear it on TV. Nothing reflective. Nothing that makes sound.”

Myers says she has enough dresses to go five weeks without having to wear a dress twice. But all the limitations can make it difficult to find work attire that’s fashionable, looks good on-screen, and affordable. This is especially true for women, which is why when they find a garment that works, word spreads quickly. For example, this dress, which sold for $23 on Amazon, was shared in a private Facebook group for female meteorologists and quickly sold out in every color but green.

3. BUT IT’S CASUAL BELOW THE KNEE.

Since their feet rarely appear on camera, some meteorologists take to wearing casual, comfortable footwear, especially on long days. For example, England told the New York Times that during storm season, he was often on his feet for 12 straight hours. So, “he wears Mizuno running shoes, which look ridiculous with his suit and tie but provide a bit of extra cushioning,” Sam Anderson writes.

And occasionally female meteorologists will strap their mic pack to their calves or thighs rather than the more unpleasant option of stuffing it into their waistband or strapping it onto their bra.

4. THERE ARE TRICKS TO STAYING WARM IN A SNOWSTORM.

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“In the field when I’m covering snow storms, I go to any pharmacy and get those back patches people wear, those heat wraps, and stick them all over my body,” explains Abrams. “Then I put on a wet suit. When you’re out for as long as we are, that helps you stay dry. I have to be really hot when I go out for winter storms.”

5. THERE’S NO SCRIPT.

Your local TV weather forecaster is ad-libbing from start to finish. “Our scripts are the graphics we create,” says Jacob Wycoff, a meteorologist with Western Mass News. “Generally speaking we’re using the graphics to talk through our stories, but everything we say is ad-libbed. Sometimes you can fumble the words you want to say, and sometimes you may miss a beat, but I think what that allows you to do is have a little off-the-cuff moment, which I think the viewers enjoy.”

6. MOM’S THE AUDIENCE.

Part of a meteorologist’s job is to break down very complicated scientific terminology and phenomena into something the general public can not only stomach, but crave. “The trick is … to approach the weather as if you're telling a story: Who are the main actors? Where is the conflict? What happens next?” explains Bob Henson, a Weather Underground meteorologist. “Along the way, you have the opportunity to do a bit of teaching. Weathercasters are often the only scientists that a member of the public will encounter on a regular basis on TV.”

Wycoff’s method for keeping it simple is to pretend like he’s having a conversation with his mom. “I’d pretend like I was giving her the forecast,” he says. “If my mom could understand it, I felt confident the general audience could as well. Part of that is also not using completely science-y terms that go over your audience’s head.”

7. SOCIAL MEDIA HAS MADE THEIR JOBS MORE DIFFICULT.

Professional meteorologists spend a lot of time debunking bogus forecasts spreading like wildfire across Twitter. “We have a lot of social media meteorologists that don’t have necessarily the background or training to create great forecasts,” Wycoff says. “We have to educate our viewers that they should know the source they’re getting information from.”

“People think it’s as easy as reading a chart,” says Scott Sistek, a meteorologist and weather blogger for KOMO TV in Seattle. “A lot of armchair meteorologists at home can look at a chart and go ok, half an inch of rain. But we take the public front when it’s wrong.”

8. THEY MAKE LIFE-OR-DEATH DECISIONS.

A meteorologist forecasting a hurricane
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People plan their lives around the weather forecast, and when a storm rolls in, locals look to their meteorologist for guidance on what to do. If he or she gets the path of a tornado wrong, or downplays its severity, people’s lives are in danger. “If you miss a severe weather forecast and someone’s out on the ball field and gets stuck, someone could get injured,” says Wycoff. “It is a great responsibility that we have.”

Conversely, England says when things get dangerous, some people are reluctant to listen to a forecaster’s advice because they don’t like being told what to do. He relies on a little bit of psychological maneuvering to get people to take cover. “You suggest, you don’t tell,” he says. “You issue instructions but in a way where they feel like they’re making up their own minds.”

9. DON’T BANK ON THOSE SEVEN-DAY FORECASTS.

“I would say that within three days, meteorologists are about 90 percent accurate,” Wycoff says. “Then at five days we’re at about 60 percent to 75 percent and then after seven days it becomes a bit more wishy-washy.”

10. THEY’RE FRENEMIES.

The competition for viewers is fierce, and local meteorologists are all rivals in the same race. “When you’re in TV, all meteorologists at other competitors are the enemy,” England says. “You’re not good friends with them. They try to steal the shoes off your children and food off your plate. If they get higher ratings, they get more money.”

11. THEY’RE TIRED OF HEARING THE SAME JOKE OVER AND OVER.

“There’s always the running joke: ‘I wish I could be paid a million dollars to be wrong 80 percent of the time,’” Sistek says. “I wanted to have a contest for who can come up with the best weatherman insult, because we need something new! Let’s get creative here.”

A version of this story originally ran in 2015.

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