Business Communication Assignment Descriptions

Summer, 2007


Business Contact Interview
Purpose:  To better understand how the principles of "rhetorical norms" actually affect communication in a real business environment.

Report on the rules of a specific business with regard to "WHO" is allowed to make decisions, "WHAT" information types and sources are appropriate to use for decision-making, and "HOW" does proper decision-making communication take place.  Email your answers, which will be scored on the basis of  

How to accomplish this:  Find an individual who is presently employed in business with at least five years experience in his or her current organization.  The person can be someone you know well--a parent or family friend, or a current coworker or supervisor.  This should be someone you feel comfortable with, and an ideal person might also work in a career area in which you are interested.  You may interview the person over the phone, face-to-face, or by email, and you are welcome to ask as many questions as you like to find your required answers.  Some good starter questions are simple: What does it mean to be a “good communicator” in your company, industry and position?  What communication skills and abilities are expected of a college-educated, entry-level employee?  What communication problems or issues exist in your organization?
  Can you give an example of a situation in which unwritten rules seemed to have been broken?

Purpose: To gain practice with the details of proper business letter format, style, content, and language use.

Assignment: Compose a letter to your immediate supervisor, with a copy to a colleague and your instructor.  The letter should describe the content of an article you have recently read in a business or industry periodical.  Send the letter to your instructor as an email attachment.  Your letter will be evaluated on the basis of

How to accomplish: Follow the format carefully, structure the letter content carefully, and proofread carefully.  This is how you accomplish any business writing task.  As with playing the guitar, the principles are very simple, but the implementation can take years of practice.  If you are not already good at following directions, expressing your ideas clearly, and proofreading carefully, you can expect this project to take a whole lot of practice. 

Work Analysis

Purpose: To investigate the information flow involved in a representative business communication task.  

Assignment:  Select a communication task that is performed in a business environment (e.g. a regular report, a routine memo or email, a presentation made often to various audiences).  Ideally this will be a regular task that you (or an associate) are responsible for in a organization that you know fairly well.  (If necessary, you may use a similar task associated with an academic or social organization.)   Identify a) the DATA that must be gathered, selected and evaluated, b) the organizing, formatting, or transmission processes that add value to the data and create INFORMATION, and c) the way(s) in which the message content is ultimately used as a KNOWLEDGE by its recipient.  Email your answer, which will be scored with respect to

How to accomplish this:  
Refer, in particular to the principles described in
Work as Information Exchange.  It is not necessary to submit a diagram of the the knowledge chain, although you might find this to be a useful way to conceptualize the communication task as a "value adding" activity. You will want to select a task that is done fairly often so that you can see several instances of the memo or report or presentation.  Just one sample might not be enough to see the overall pattern of how the communication works--or doesn't.  In fact, you might learn the most by looking at situations where the communication "breaks down" for some reason.  Generally, these are points where data is incomplete, where the format or language is inappropriate for the task, or where the transmission method is unsuitable for the receiver's purposes.  


Prepare a Professional Resume

Purpose: To apply the conventions of professional resume content and format using the student's own  personal information. The result should be appropriate for use in applying for an internship, a part-time student job, or a career position. 

Assignment: Prepare or update your resume to maximize its effectiveness in showcasing your professionalism with respect to the common expectations of communication in a typical business organization.  Submit a copy of the resume as an email attachment, which will be scored with respect to 

How to accomplish this:  Refer, in particular to the annotated, chronological example provided at UNI's business communication website.  Additional advice and links are available at that site, at the Rod Library, and at the Career Center.    Pay particular attention to the scoring elements listed above, and watch out for these common errors:

Task focus:  Job descriptions and accomplishment bullets should provide information about what you've done, not what you're learned or hoped to accomplish.  Use active, concrete verbs rather than vague phrases such as "assisted with" or "responsible for" or "supported".

Hierarchical relationship:  Convey a tone of serious interest in working for the company.  Do not ask to be hired to learn new skills or to gain career goals for yourself.  

Objective evidence:  Wherever possible, describe accomplishments in terms of concrete, objective measures.  Give the number of employees supervised, for instance, or the amount of cash handled rather than vague descriptions of "supervising employees" or "handling cash."

Competence with resume structure:  Content should be structured to showcase the applicant's best features at the top of the resume or resume section, relegating less important or less impressive material to secondary locations.

Relevant content: The information provided in the resume should clearly support the stated objective.  

Framed to showcase qualifications: Job descriptions and accomplishment bullets should provide concert evidence of past success; the choice of additional activities, skills, and references should highlight the applicant's strengths. 

Appropriately formatted: Whatever resume format you select should be executed professionally with consistent tabs and spacing, correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation, and conservative fonts and graphic elements.

Cover Letter
Purpose: To apply the norms of business communication to the writing of a cover letter.
Assignment:  Prepare a cover letter in response to a specific job announcement, a personal referral or as a cold-contact with a company of interest. Submit the cover letter as an email attachment, along with a link to the relevant job information (i.e. the job announcement or a link to the company's website; for a personal referral, explain the situation in your email).  The cover letter will be scored on the basis of

How to accomplish this:  In addition to reading the general expectations of job search communication in Joining a Business Organization, review the specific format expectations at UNI's Business Communication website.  Students who have not completed modules A and C may review the business style of communication in Culture and Communication in Organizations  and Creating Businesslike Messages.

Professional Bio Page

Assignment: Create a professional bio as described on page 12 (and see sample below).  Upload this as an HTML file to any website and email the link to the instructor. 

How to accomplish this assignment: If you do not already have a commercial website available, all UNI students are eligible for webspace.  Iinstructions are posted on the Business Communication website under “electronic and web communication.”  Students are assumed to have taken Intro to MIS and have learned to write sufficient HTML code to do this assignment; if this is not the case, please contact the instructor.  The assignment will be evaluated on the basis of 

-businesslike design: color choice, font use, format/design (background, spacing, tables, graphics), images

-communication of businesslike persona (active, sensitive, rational, customer focus)

-accuracy and clarity of content (education, work background, project resources, membership in client organizations)

-file management (workability of links, properly uploaded)

Robert C. Johnson, CPA


photoRob Johnson holds the position of non-profit specialist at Midwestern Accounting LLP, assigned to the company’s main office in Des Moines. 

Graduating with a B.A. and M.Acc from the University of Northern Iowa in 2006, Bob distinguished himself with additional certificates in International Business and in Leadership.  He is fluent in Spanish and has done extensive work in Costa Rica on the valuation of environmental assets and sustainable economic development. 

Rob will be representing Midwestern Accounting on the Greater DesMoines Economic Development Council, and as a new resident of Urbandale, Rob looks forward to becoming active with the local Methodist church as well as the Iowa Association of Public Accountants.

An avid bowler, Rob also likes to spend time camping and fishing the lakes of Iowa and Minnesota with his wife, Sheri.



                                                                          (712) 742-3994

Project Proposal
Purpose: Apply the principles of persuasive communication in proposing an idea or activity to a business audience.

Assignment: Prepare presentation slides and notes for a proposal of an activity (employee social event, new product introduction, etc.), policy change (benefits administration, office procedures, etc.), or business process (accounting methods, marketing procedures, etc.).  Send the PPT file to the instructor as an  attachment
to an email that specifies the audience involved and any relevant background information about the situation.  The file will be scored on the basis of  

How to accomplish this:  ¤ Imagine or use a REAL audience so that  issues of audience analysis, speaker credibility, and expectations for evidence can be authentically treated.  Creating a "hypothetical" situation is likely to result in a superficial treatment of the topic and a poorer score.  If a business situation is not available, you may use a student or community context.  ¤ Review the principles covered in Communicating to Decide and Communicating for Results, and think carefully about the best way to convince the target audience.  There is never a single "right" answer when it comes to persuasion, but everything you do should be done for a reason.    ¤ Be sure to include your speaker notes in the notes section of the slide.  While the assignment is scored on visual communication principles, the logic and evidence of the claim will be evaluated on the basis of the verbal information.

Purpose: Demonstrate your ability to create a professional email message.

Assignment: Send an email to the instructor that provides a summary of a task you completed today.
The email will be scored on the following items:

How to accomplish this: The email should conform to the format, structure and content expectations discussed in Events, Documents and Technologies and at the BusCommWebsite.

Issue Resolution Plan
Purpose: To practice the use of systematic communication to resolve an issue.

Assignment: Identify an ISSUE in a current work or social situation.  Prepare an outline of the issue resolution process, including the planned EXPECTED VS ACTUAL conversation starter, and the anticipated outcome at each choice point until you and the other party will have reached a collaborative, problem-solvimg conversation.  Email the plan to your instructor; it will be scored on the basis of

How to accomplish this:   Follow the decision diagram provided in the reading, Communicating Strategically.   Be sure that you are identifying the person responsible for changing the behavior identified as an issue.  Provide the "script" you would use to make your initial "expected versus actual" statement about the issue.  Then, work through the decision path:  was the expectation clear?  if yes, was the failure to meet the expecation due to a choice or a barrier?  if a choice, what are the values being prioritized, and if you choose to persuade the other person of your own values, priorities your appeals in terms of group goals, personal relationships, and finally individual motivations.





Project Documentation
Purpose: To identify and practice the principles of project documentation
in a team project situation.

Assignment:  Select a project or on-going job responsibility that involves a collaborative group of individuals undertaking a task of some complexity (e.g. at least three task steps each for three to five individuals over a period of several weeks or months).  Prepare a complete list of the documents that would be included in the project documentation at the final report or transfer to a subsequent team.  Email this list to the instructor.  The assignment will be scored on the basis of

How to accomplish this: Review the principles and guidelines d
scussed in Productive Team Communication and refer specifically to the project documentation link at the Business Communication website.  You may select a class or work project in which you are involved in, determining whether the current documentation is sufficient, complete, and effective.  Alternatively, you may begin planning an upcoming community event in which you will be involved (i.e. a wedding, fund-raising event, or church activity would all be acceptable) with a guideline for the creation of its documentation.  You do not need to create each document, but do be sure to identify the specific content that would be included in each of the items.  For instance, a wedding planning binder would not include an item with the generic description from the example, 

1.                    Information you have received or located that defines task expectations

a)                   who is/are the client(s)?  client expectations?

b)                   what do we need to deliver? Timeliness, quantity, quality, cost?

c)                   what are the subtasks?

Instead, your description should include a brief but complete description that looks like this
1.                  Wedding Event Information

a)                   Bride and groom names: date, time of wedding, number of guests, our role (wedding, rehearsal dinner, reception, honeymoon escape, other? 

b)                   Flowers, photography, food,  decorations, music, dj services; Timeliness, quantity, quality, cost characteritistics for each

c)                  selection session with bride/groom, purchasing,  pickup, event service, cleanup, return of items, other 

Project Communication Plan
Purpose: To design an appropriate communication plan for a team project.

Assignment:  Select a project or on-going job responsibility that involves a collaborative group of individuals undertaking a task of some complexity (e.g. at least three task steps each for three to five individuals over a period of several weeks or months).  Create a
Gantt chart or project control calendar that includes a) all decision-points, information-transfer points that required communication among or between team members or between team member(s) and the client, resources, or other outside entities, b) an indication of the communication method that will be employed to meet each of these communication needs. 
Email the result to the instructor.  The assignment will be scored on the basis of

How to accomplish this:  The assumption is that you will use the SAME project information included in the Project Documentation.  Refer in particular to pages 12-14 in Productive Team Communication and step-by-step sample provided at the Business Communication Website.  A Gantt chart is probably the best planning tool for most projects, but you may use a calendar or another format if it meets your needs more effectively. 

Meeting Facilitation
Purpose: To demonstrate the ability to create a meeting agenda, facilitate the meeting, and document its results.

Assignment:  Select a meeting associated with some project, team, or business function in which you are involved.  Before the meeting, create an agenda that meets the requirements discussed in
Productive Team Communication.   Attend or facilitate the meeting, and create minutes for the meeting.  Submit the documents to the instructor by email along with a short (2 paragraph maximum) assessment of the meeting facilitation.  Your assignment will be scored on the basis of

How to accomplish this:
  For more detailed information about the agenda and meeting minutes documents, refer to the Business Communication Website.  Don't neglect to provide a complete and reasoned analysis of the meeting.

Agenda:  Be particularly careful to indicate the purpose of each agenda item; this is a list of things to do in the meeting (e.g. decide, discuss, evaluate, etc.) not topics that will be covered in some unspecified way.  

Minutes: Meeting minutes should similarly document the decision, the substance of the discussion, or the assignment made.  This is not a list of the topics that were dealt with, but a record of how each was dealt with.   Most students will not be in a position to create the agenda or facilitate the meeting, but the agenda you submit should be a correctly prepared one.  .  Likewise, you should take your own complete and accurate minutes of the meeting, regardless of the documentation produced by the team's own facilitators.  

Analysis: The basic questions you should answer are, was this meeting conducted according to the principles discussed in 
Productive Team Communication? and, did that make a difference to the success of the meeting?  You might discover that the meeting did not go well because the agenda actually used was incomplete or inaccurate. You might realize that there was "more going on" that either the agenda or the minutes documented.  You might decide that the meeting accomplished its purpose (or some other important purpose) even though it was not run "by the book."  Whatever your decision, be sure to provide the specific analytical criteria as well as the evidence of the meeting's adherence to those criteria.

Purpose: To practice the standard memo format typically used in a business organization.

Assignment:  Write a memo to a colleague, co-worker, or supervisor to summarize the proper procedure for some task or job responsibility.  If you are not presently working, you may select a task that is related to a student or community organization.  Send a copy to the instructor as an email attachment, properly noting that on the memo.  The memo will be scored on the basis of

How to accomplish: Follow the format carefully, structure the memo content carefully, and proofread carefully.  This is how you accomplish any business writing task.  As with playing the guitar, the principles are very simple, but the implementation can take years of practice.  If you are not already good at following directions, expressing your ideas clearly, and proofreading carefully, you can expect this project to take a whole lot of practice

Analytical Memo
Purpose: Practice creating decision-making communication that follows the standard analytical structure.
Assignment: Select any problem faced by a business or business person you know.  Analyze the problem, using any analytical framework that you have learned in a previous business course.   Write a memo (maximum of two pages) summarizing your analysis and conclusion, and send as an email attachment to your instructor. The memo will be scored with respect to

How to accomplish this:   Review the guidelines covered in Communicating to Decide. You might also find the structure review at the Business Communication website helpful.  Because this assignment is to write a memo, you should also be familiar with the format expectations of a memo, which are described at the Business Communication website.

Purpose: To learn each element of the formal business report format, and to understand how it differs from an academic term paper.
Assignment:  Reformat a report from a university course to conform with the expectations of a formal business report.  A case study, marketing analysis, or financial analsyis would be excellent choices, but any report of 10 -30 pages in length can be used.  Submit the report to the instructor in a manner that allows the
inclusion of appropriate tables, graphics, and appendices.  Electronic submissions must arrive as a single file and will be scored as though they were received in hard copy; any material included in a covering email will NOT be considered to be part of the report.  Professional binding is not required, but page design and graphics should be of professional quality. The report MUST properly reference at least three sources and include at least one appendix.  Reports will be scored on the basis of

How to accomplish this A checklist of all the required elements is available at the Business Communication website.  You can also refer to a sample report on the course website.  Notice that a substantial part of the grade involves the analytical structure of the report.  While this is expected in a business environment, it is not always required in an academic course.  Don't simply change a report you did in class to block paragraphs and expect it to "be" a business report.  Format is a lot, but it's not everything.  You will probably find that some required elements were not present in the report you did in class; you'll undoubtedly need to add some material. Depending on the assignment, you might find that substantial reorganization of the material is needed.  You may, of course, choose to write an entirely new report.  This won't give you quite the same feel for the different report styles, but it is acceptable for those who don't have a previous paper to use.   Certain format requirements (e.g. page numbers, heading styles, table of contents) are very easily accomplished in MS Word, but are incredibly time consuming if you do not know how to use the commands.  If you do not already know how to use Style Templates to create a Table of Contents or how to insert multiple types of page numbers, you should locate a course, tutorial, reference guide or friend to assist you. Many training tools are available at the Microsoft site, and UNI's Center for Educational Technology offers free courses on campus.

Team Status Report

Purpose:  To apply and evaluate the expectations of a status report in an authethic team situtation.
Prepare a memo to the supervisor indicating the current project and team status with respect to a current or recent team project. Send a copy of that memo to the course instructor as an email attachment.  The report will be scored on

1) the basis of  
information expectations of a status report as described in Productive Team Communication.

2) a summary of the team's conformance with the principles of productive team management as outlined in the same chapter

How to accomplish this
:  Feel free to select any team situation from work or school contexts.  Ideally, this will be a team that is still operational, but a recent project is acceptable so long as you can still remember the details.  The success of the team in completing its project is not a scoring issue.  In fact, dysfunctional teams are often easier to analyze.  Your score will depend primarily on the level of detail you provide with regard to the status of the teams's project and its performance with respect to the planning and management of its charge.

Electronic Networking Report
Purpose: To become familiar with the communication norms, message protocols, and expected results in at least one electronic networking environment that is appropriate to the student's career interests.

Assignment:  Select and join a networking environment, and participate in the normal activities of the group for at least two weeks.  Participation should include at least one message that requests or provides information, adds value or insight to an ongoing conversation, or gathers information that is relevant to the student's job or career.  Forward a copy of the interaction to the instructor with a cover email that comments on the value of the networking venue. The exchange will be evaluated on

How to accomplish this:  
Step One: Locate a relevant networking venue.  If you are employed, you might start with a company-sponsored environment. Ask your supervisor, HR department, or surf around on the company intranet.  If you are planning on a career in a particular industry, the relevant professional organization is a great place to start. There is sometimes a membership fee, but joining these organizations as a student can give you a career boost that is well worth the price. You can also check out the millions of freespecial-interest groups on the web. To some extent, you get what you pay for, but reading previous student reviews can help you avoid some wasted time.  Individual networking sites such as LinkedIn  or Orkut are also an option. Step Two: Monitor the conversation for a while rather than jumping in with something inappropriate.  Once you get a sense of what you might learn from someone in the group, or what you might be able to offer, use the system to poke, post or email.  If you aren't sure of networking etiquette, refer to the basics covered in Joining a Business Organization or refer to the Business Communication website.  Step Three:  Plan to give the system a workout for at least a couple of weeks before trying to evaluate its usefulness.  Some groups are much more active than others, and you could be able to make a judgment much more quickly, but often the conversation changes over the space of a few weeks, so it's best not to jump to a conclusion too quickly.  As you write up your review, be complete in terms of the network's potential usefulness for mentoring and developing channels of communication, as well as making  immediate contacts or gathering information.  

Relationship Analysis
Purpose: To apply communication principles covered in 
Differences in Communication Cultures and  Interpersonal Communication to an interpersonal relationship.

Assignment:  Select one set of communication differences on which you and a work colleague are at least somewhat different.  Write a short analysis (3 page maximum) of the how these differences effect your day-to-day work communication and methods for making your relationship more pleasant OR your collaborative work more effective.  Send the analysis as an email attachment to the instructor.  It will be scored on the basis of

How to accomplish this:  First, select a framework of differences from the readings (e.g. cultural patterns, status differences, or social/work assumptions in Reading E-1, or communication or gender styles in Reading E-2).  Don't simply list random things that are different between you and someone else, or thing that irritate you about a co-worker.  Then, analyze the situation in a systematic way, looking for reasons that your communication is different and explanations for any irritations or inefficiencies you are experiencing.  Finally, by comparing the readings and the situation, you should be able to predict better success by doing some specific things.  Notice that you will need to decide on your goal; you probably can make the relationship more pleasant OR you can make the work more productive.  There is no guarantee you can always do both, although that is an ideal goal.

Management Discussion Brief
Purpose: To apply the principles of managerial communication in an authentic problem-solving situation.

Assignment: Create a brief to prepare yourself to facilitate a problem solving meeting.  (The "brief" is a document that outlines all of the decision issues, with a full summary of the evidence, varous stakeholder positions, and potential implementation issues involved.  The document is sometimes called a "white paper" when it is prepared for distribution as a written document, and sometimes called "talking points" when the document outlines the points that support an individual speaker's position.)  
The brief will be evaluated on the basis of

How to accomplish this:   Start with a "real" discussion that will occur at work or within your living group.  For example, your work crew might be trying to decide a better way to arrange vacations schedules.  Your roommates might need to sit down soon and re-organize the chore schedule.  The most difficult part of this assignment is to locate ALL the analysis issues.  Many times roommates will start trying to discuss implementation plans ("who's going to do the dishes") before they've identified the problem ("dishes aren't being done daily"), much less provided evidence to support a claim.  (Saying something like, "You never do them on time" without  providing an observation log, for instance, to validate the claim.)  Work groups often do the same sort of thing.  For a good score, your brief will probably have to fill in all the blanks.  The second thing to keep in mind is that this is to be a management decision-making meeting, not a gripe session or an exploratory discussion.  If you realize that information is missing, you will need to locate that information to include it in the brief.  A brief is not simply an outline of everything you happen to know right now; it's a document that collects all the information that will be needed to make a good decision.

Transmittal Documents
Purpose: To reframe and revised project documentation so that another person or team can effectively extend or replicate the work you have done.

Create (or revise) the documentation for a project to communicate its purpose, the current status, and project resource materials to a new team taking it over. The document should include, at minimum, a cover memo to the new team and a print or electronic respository of appropriate materials so that the project can be continued.  Submit the cover memo to your instructor along project documentation or a link to web-based materials. Your work will be scored on  the basis of

How to accomplish this:  
Presumably, this project is an ongoing one that has already been used as the basis for previous assignments.  The documentation would thus be the material promised in the Project Documentation assignment.  Similarly, Part One of the Status Report provides a reasonable outline for the transmittal memo.  If your project is already completed, you would be passing the documentation on for the next team to replicate; if the project is still in progress, the next team will need a summary of its current status. Keep in mind that the documentation should enable the next team to DO the work.  Complete documentation must include contact information for resources, for example, not merely a list of who you called. Similarly, a printed copy of a brochure your team has designed
would be useless without the electronic file to allow the next team to have it printed.  Keep in mind that your audience is a team of students just like yourselves; your job is to make it possible for them to pick up this work and carry on.  

Communication Productivity Analysis
Purpose:  To understand the application of principles of productive information management covered in
Communicating Productively, and to locate ways of increasing communication effectiveness.

Assignment:  Analyze the management of a specific job responsibility with respect to 1) controlling i
ncoming information flow and 2) managing ommunication events for maximum productivity.  The analysis of each should include a) an identification of any inefficiencies, b) at least one principle from the reading that addresses an identified inefficiency OR offers potential for improved productivity, and c) a recommendation for changing current communication processes.  Email your answer, which will be scored with respect to
How to accomplish this:

1) Shadow a business contact or use your own work situation and identify at least one task to illustrate information flow and a communication event.  For example, a person's techniques for reading email or filing the department's work orders would involve control (or not!) of incoming information.  The preparation and conduct of a conversation or meeting would qualify as management (or not!) of a communication event.   Some tasks could involve both steps, as when a customer service representative takes a phone call, screening and selecting the appropriate information to include on a work order that she or he will  then communicate to a technician. 

2) Determine whether there is some inefficiency with the current process or a potential for improvement by comparing the current process with the principles described in the reading.  For example, you could do an inbox analysis, noting the
number of documents, phone calls, emails, conversations or other sources of information that are handled multiple times.   (i.e. You read an email or memo for a second time because you never removed it from the in-box and filed it appropriately the first time you read it.)  Or, you might review several voice mails to determine whether complete, succinct information was provided in the greeting or the messages.

3) Make an appropriate recommendation to change the current procedure to better match the principles described in the reading.  Be careful not to simply give advice, such as "do a better job of answering emails promptly."  Try to figure out WHY a person might be communicating inefficiently, and offer suggestions to change the technology, filing systems, or work processes to make communication more productive.  An appropriate recommendation must conform to business norms of  reciprocity, action orientation, reliance on objective data, and sensitivity to hierarchy.  You might find that inefficiencies are caused by someone who is violating one or more of those norms, or you might find that conflicting goals need to be negotiated in order for everyone to communicate more productively.  If so, these issues should be noted in your response.

Thank you Letter
Purpose: To practice the communication skills involved in sending an appropriate followup response after a job interview or receiving career assistance from a colleague, mentor or supervisor.

Assignment:  Prepare a letter to thank someone for taking the time to conduct an interview, providing assistance or advice, or performing some other activity that you found to be helpful in your job search, work performance, or career advancement.  The letter should reflect the business style and professional tone discussed in 
Culture and Communication in Organizations and reflect an appreciation for the career building steps reviewed in Joining a Business Organization.  Email the letter as an attachment to the instructor.  It will be scored on the basis of

How to accomplish this:  Pay attention to the proper form of a letter, of course, and proofread carefully.  An excellent "thank you" message is discussed at the Business Communication Website.  Your positive, relationship-building content might reflect an effort to give positive recognition.  If the thank you letter follows a job interview, an excellent technnique is to include some reference to the interview conversation.  It's important that the interviewer remember you as a unique, individual rather than just one of many nameless interviewees.