3 Key Ingredients for Writing the Perfect Thank You Email

Thank you written on napkin under coffee on wooden table.

You just finished a networking conversation with someone, and no doubt, they offered to do something awesome for you. It may be to introduce you to someone, forward your resume to HR, or send you a job description. Your follow-up email is the catalyst for the next action.

But that’s not going to happen without settling up for what they’ve already done for you. Humans relationships are built through give-and-take. Once they’ve given you their career advice or help, it’s your job to give back before getting more. That means showing gratitude—saying, “thank you.”

Genuine, professional relationships are won or lost on how you handle the follow-up to a networking conversation.

There’s a few common mistakes you may be making when writing a follow-up email. We’ll show you how to avoid the mistakes, and the secret to writing an effective follow-up email.

Generic ‘thank you’s miss the mark

If you don’t follow up properly, you’re sending a message that you don’t value your contact, their advice, or their investment in you. Without an effective follow-up, it can feel very transactional—a networking “hit and run.” No one wants that.

But most thank you messages miss the mark—miserably.

Here’s a particularly painful example. Recently, I met with someone I’ll call Alexi, who wanted to break into a field I had worked in. Alexi was very engaged as I sprinted her through the list of companies to consider, and which ones to avoid. I offered to connect her to several hiring managers I knew. We covered a lot of ground in 30 minutes.

All was going well until the very end.

As our conversation came to a close, Alexi stood up from the table and handed me an envelope. Opening it, I found a pre-written thank you note. She seemed proud, having checked me off her to-do list! But I felt cheated. This was a receipt more than a thank you. It missed the mark.

Common thank you email mistakes to avoid

Here’s three common mistakes you want to avoid in your follow-up thank you messages:

  • Gushing Gratitude: Saying the words “thank you” repeatedly, with exclamation marks, doesn’t make it so. In fact, flowery thank you follow-ups can seem insincere. What your contact wants to know is, “Thank you for what?
  • Generic Junk: We’ve all seen our share of form letters, so it’s pretty obvious when you read a thank you message that was copied and pasted from an email template. It doesn’t sound like a real person wrote it. It can feel cold and robotic, not warm and real.
  • Missed Moment: A late thank you, no matter how well-written, feels like an afterthought. It can feel stale, not fresh. Send a thank you note while the conversation is still memorable.
    A great thank you follow-up isn’t complicated. It’s simple and sincere, and easier to write than you may think.

Reciprocate to recharge the energy

Let’s look at the big picture: we are all human. We agree to networking conversations because we want to help others. Taking the time and effort to have a conversation with someone new takes time and energy.

But often, we leave a conversation wondering if we offered anything valuable.

Person holding lightbulb filled with fairy lights in the dark.

The job of your thank you follow-up is to recharge that energy for the next person. It should make someone feel glad they helped you, and make them want to help others in the future. Gratitude has a multiplier effect.

I received a thank you message that did just that recently. It was from someone I connected with several times as she was navigating the next step in her career. It wasn’t long, nor overly sentimental. But it told me exactly how I had contributed to her success. It made me feel good and want to continue helping her.

That’s the goal.

Writing an effective thank you email

The perfect thank you follow-up is not long or formal. What matters is that it’s meaningful.

A meaningful thank you email tells someone specifically what you found valuable—it rings the gratitude bell. It lets them know that their time, effort, and tailored advice mattered to you. That they made a difference.

Here’s what an effective thank you follow-up email looks like. We’ll go over each underlined phrase:

“Thank you for the fantastic conversation! Because of you, I feel equipped to apply for the job and know how to prepare for the hiring process. Based on your advice, I plan to add the autism-awareness project to my LinkedIn profile. I’ll also check out the website you mentioned. I appreciate your offer to connect me with your friend, Jamar Wright. I will review his LinkedIn profile so I am ready to follow up on your introduction. Thank you again. I will keep you posted on my progress!”

Man writing note next to laptop on desk.

Three key ingredients to perfecting the thank you follow-up email

As you sit down to write your thank you, include these three ingredients to ensure your follow-up email is both meaningful and effective.

1. The thank you

Of course, a well-written thank you email starts with a thank you. They appreciate knowing one or two things that resonated with you. Tell them know how your conversation made a difference for you. Share a worthwhile take-away. Be specific.

Key thank you phrase: Because of you, …

To write this sentence, think about how the conversation was worthwhile for you. What’s a problem that they solved, or an idea that they gave you? A piece of advice that resonated, or an insight that you hadn’t discovered before? Did you have an a-ha! moment? Do you feel more confident moving ahead in your job search?

What’s one nugget that they gave you? Tell them.

2. Laying out action steps

Since they’ve invested time and energy into you, your contact will want to help you progress toward your goals. Actions signal movement. What actions did they inspire?

Key action phrase: Based on your advice, I am going to…

A few of their suggestions probably resonated with you. Name one or two things that you plan to do. Pass on the fluffy stuff—who really wants to read that industry journal? Make these real things worth doing. In naming some actions, you give them due credit for helping you advance to the next stage.

Some examples of practical actions they might have suggested:

  • Updating your resume to highlight specific experiences and skills
  • Learning about a company or opportunity that your contact through might interest you
  • Applying to a job or internship program
  • Reaching out to a suggested contact
  • Looking into a suggested program, course, or project

3. Setting reminders

Did your new connection offer to make an introduction? Send a job posting? Share a resource? Make a referral? They’ll need a reminder of what to follow up on and some reassurance that you won’t drop the ball if they do.

Rather than listing everything they offered to do, name one or two things that matter most to you. For each one, tell them what they can expect from you if they take that action.

Key reminder phrase: I appreciate your offer to…

Many people omit this section because they are afraid they’ll seem pushy. The truth is that professionals expect you, not them, to manage the next steps. When a connection is helping you out, it’s up to you to keep things moving.

If you don’t include a reminder in your follow-up email, your connection assumes you don’t need anything further. Plus, it’s awkward for both of you if you reach out later about something they’ve forgotten about.

The shortcut to writing a perfect thank you email

This sounds good, but if you are like most people, you struggle with writing a solid thank you email.

Thankfully, MANGO can help with that.

MANGO is a free tool that coaches you through networking, including writing a thank you email. With MANGO’s Thank You Email Builder, you’ll be writing customized thank you follow-ups in no time, without the guesswork.

Here’s an example of an effective thank you email that was drafted using MANGO’s free Thank You Email Builder:

MANGO Thank You Email Builder screenshot showing five essential ingredients for the email.

The formula for the thank you email is shown on the left in orange. It includes five sections for a perfect thank you email, along with a closing signature block.

Unlike generic thank you email templates, the Thank You Email Builder coaches you sentence-by-sentence, guiding you through drafting a thank you email that’s customized for your contact. What about formatting? No worries—the formatting is done for you so that it’s easy for your contact to scan. Watch this video to see how the Thank You Email Builder works. 

When you’re done, you’ll have a thank you email that contains all the key ingredients your contact needs for next steps. 

To see how Email Builders work for yourself, try our Conversation Request Email Builder or Event Follow-Up Email Builder. Once you’re signed up with MANGO for free, you’ll be able to use the Thank You Email Builder to start writing flawless thank you’s. 

The secret to converting one conversation into a professional relationship is your thank you email. Make it count!

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Sue Wollan Fan is the Founder & CEO of MANGO, a free networking tool whose mission is to expand opportunities for all by making networking easier, accessible, and more human. She has mentored hundreds to succeed professionally while serving as a corporate executive, nonprofit leader, tech entrepreneur, and mother of three. She is passionate about helping others do work that matters.