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I met someone at a conference who ended up being the president of a company operating in a different city. He forwarded my information to HR, and next thing I know, I have an interview. I did well enough that I've been offered a second interview, in which I'm being flown in.

I want to thank my initial contact in person and this seems like a good opportunity - but I also don't want there to be any subtext of "give me a job because of this tenuous connection."

Can anyone think of a way to tactfully approach this situation? Or should I just wait to thank him by email after I hear about the hiring decision? (or of course if I get the job, I'll also have opportunity to thank him in person too.)

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Can anyone think of a way to tactfully approach this situation?

I think you already have this figured out. I would also go for something like this:

  1. Wait to see how the hiring process ends

  2. If you get the job, you can thank him in person. You could have a face to face talk where you thank him, or if you like (and you feel ok with it) you could even invite him to lunch and have the talk there.

  3. If you don't get the job, you can proceed to write him an email thanking him of his support and recommendation.

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