Why it’s okay to send a handwritten note, and what you should also do

This article is in response to one written for BusinessInsider.com about the pitfalls of sending a handwritten thank you note after an interview. I see the author’s points of view, but I would do it differently. I also stress there is no one way to do it right.

While many people prefer to send an e-mail thank you note after an interview, just as many prefer to send a handwritten note—this is based on unofficial polls I conduct during a few of my workshops.

The pros of sending a handwritten thank you letter.

It’s a personal touch and shows the recipient that you took the time and spent the money to purchase the cards. You thoughtfully wrote the card without the use of spell check. And you either hand delivered it or supported our government’s mail system by mailing it to the interviewer/s.

The feel of a heavy-stock thank you letter is oh so pleasing. The sight of a professional, tasteful card with gold trim and “Thank You” printed in gold is eye appealing. The words written in your own hand are so much more intimate than the standard Arial, Calibri, Cambria fonts. And if your handwriting is nice—please no hearts or smiley faces—it’s an additional bonus.

Best of all—because this is what I do when someone thanks me for helping them find a job—a thank you card is tangible; the interviewer can hang the card in her office for all to see, as well as your gratitude for the time she took to interview job candidates.

I like to tell the story to my workshop participants of a recruiter, a burly man who came to our career center to talk about interviewing. He was asked if he appreciated handwritten thank you notes and proceeded to tell the group about the way the hairs on his arms would rise when he held a card in his hands. A man who stood six feet, four inches talking about the sensation he felt left an impression on me.

The cons of sending a handwritten card.

Unlike the e-mail thank you, it doesn’t get there seconds after you’ve written your words of gratitude. Most will tell you to send it off 24-48 hours after the interview. As well, the card isn’t guaranteed to reach the recipient like an e-mail will (Unless you hand-deliver your thank you card. Here’s a thought.)

You generally can’t include a lot of verbiage on some of the interesting topics discussed at the interview, nor can you practice damage control, e.g., amending an answer you gave or completing it with some research. Unless, of course, your write real small.

The thank you card may not go over well with the IT recruiter…wait, I just told you about the recruiter who spoke at our career center about the feeling of ecstasy he had when he received cards.

What to do?

I’ve presented my opinion fairly objectively (not really), but what I really believe is that first you should send your thank you note via e-mail and then a week later send a handwritten note following up your e-mail. In my opinion, it’s the handwritten card that will impress the interviewer. But to play it safe you might want to do both.

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3 thoughts on “Why it’s okay to send a handwritten note, and what you should also do

  1. Paula Cohen

    Bob, thanks! I wrote a detailed comment to the BusinessInsider.com article, and reading your comments here frankly blows me away…because we say precisely (I mean exactly!) the same things, even to sending out an email first, and following up with a handwritten note a week later.

    It’s good to hear one’s thoughts confirmed by another experienced professional. It’s also good to know that common sense is not as rare as I sometimes think!

    My advice for my clients is: send out two thank you notes…a quick email one that expresses your enthusiasm and excitement about the job, and a second, equally sincere handwritten one that shows not only your continuing interest, but also reminds them — loudly and clearly — of your candidacy! How many applicants has the recruiter seen since you were there? Why should your application and resume sink to the bottom of the pile, buried by the paperwork of those who followed you?

    One good-looking card, with a well-worded message, can jolt the recruiter’s memory, and re-stimulate his or her interest in you. And if the competition doesn’t have sense enough to do the same…so much the better!

    Paula Cohen
    Career Charisma

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    1. Things Career Related Post author

      Thanks, Paula. I looked for your comment but got lost in all the trash talk from the “experts.” I see it as common courtesy and another way to say, “I want the job.” I had a customer recently say he believed he was offered a job because he sent a thank you/follow-up card and the applicant didn’t. This was in my Cover Letter/Follow-Up Letter workshop, and no he wasn’t planted there by me.

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  2. Pingback: 11 job-search blunders I find hard to believe | Things Career Related

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