"Thank you for your time and consideration" appears too often and sounds like a form of begging. "Sincerely" is generally a poor close to a letter, because nearly everyone uses it. Why should you? This is your chance to be "new and different"—and employers like that.

"Very truly yours" is nearly as bad, because it's used almost exclusively by lawyers. After threatening to sue you, they close with a coldhearted "Very truly yours."

World-famous photographer Ansel Adams was a great letter writer. (See Ansel Adams: Letters and Images 1916-1984, Little, Brown and Company.) We can take a lesson from him. Some of his letters ended with humor: "Cheeriow, luff and all that," "LET'S GO!!!," and "Whoops." Others ended with heart: "All best, always," "With all best wishes," and "Warmest greetings to all."

Business letters can be warm and friendly as long as they're not too personal. You have to sense the character of your audience and write accordingly. Some readers can stand more warmth than others. In general, it's better to be too warm than too distant.

Phyllis Record sent me a thoughtful note that ended with "Thinking the best for you." That heartfelt note encouraged me to renew an old friendship—and hire her again!

This year Howard Edson wrote his own Christmas card, a small booklet of his thoughts on life. He signed it "Season's blessings"—quite striking compared to the usual "Merry Christmas, Happy New Year!"

After an eight-hour job interview, Steve Jorgensen wrote a thank you note that ended "With kindest personal regards." It was the perfect touch.

Next time, instead of closing with "Sincerely," "Best regards," or "Very truly yours," let yourself risk a better ending. Two of my personal favorites are "Enthusiastically," and "Good wishes, always." You could try something like:

  • All best wishes,
  • Best wishes for your future,
  • With confidence,
  • Just to keep in touch with you,
  • More shortly,
  • Warmest greetings to all, or
  • Yours always.

Remember, the ending of a letter is just as important as the beginning and the middle. It's your one chance to make a strong lasting impression.

    Try using stamped reply envelopes
If you're doing a small mailing to a carefully selected list of important contacts, say to thirty recruiters

in your targeted geographic area, it might be worthwhile including a self-addressed stamped envelope. It's a convenience to the reader, and it may increase your response dramatically. I would try this tactic with any important letter where I definitely want an answer.

    Advantages of the plain white envelope
I always open envelopes with no return name or address. I'm afraid not to. Who knows what's in them?

I once received a mailer that looked like junk mail. It was one of those envelope-like packages you pull apart at the seams to expose the contents, like the things your bank sends at the end of the year for tax purposes. I opened it on the way to the trash can. And surprise! It was a $5,000 check for a consulting assignment. Since that time I seldom throw away unopened "junk mail." There are some real treasures in there.

I never throw plain envelopes away unopened, either—especially if the name and address are handwritten or typed onto the envelope (mass-produced labels and bulk postage are a tipoff that this could be junk mail). Try some different mailing approaches and see what results you get.

    Personal and confidential
Never mark an envelope "personal and confidential," unless it really is. Yes, you may fool the administrative assistant and get the letter to the right person. But if they open it expecting something extremely urgent—perhaps an emergency—only to find a job-seeker, the results can be negative. Most people don't like to feel they've been tricked.

It's like getting an executive on the phone by saying his house is on fire. It works. You do get the targeted person on the phone, but the rest of the conversation can only be disastrous.

There are times when "personal and confidential" is appropriate, such as when security would be breached, in an emergency, or when time is of the essence. In these cases, use the notation without worrying. That's what it's for.


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