Why You Shouldn’t Send a Handwritten Thank You Note

By Monday, August 5, 2013 17 Permalink 1
send a handwritten thank you note

Just send me an email. Please.

A couple days ago, I found myself in a discussion about the effectiveness of the handwritten thank you note. I was surprised to find out how many people are still sending handwritten notes or are advocates of them.  The thought is that the handwritten note differentiates a candidate from the others, who are just sending a thank you email. My view is this:

The medium for your thank you note isn’t as important as the content of your message. So why not simplify?

In the 5+ years that I’ve been in HR and recruiting, I’ve never seen or heard of a hiring manager moving someone forward because the candidate wrote out the note instead of sending an email. In fact, most recruiters and hiring folks I know expect an email…that then may get forwarded to other folks on the hiring team so they can compare notes. We also expect to see the thank you note within 24 hours, while the candidate is still fresh on our mind.  And when we don’t get them, we sometimes wonder how much the person really wants the position.  A quick example of timing and efficiency:

Last week I was on the fence about someone. We had a good conversation, but something small created a little hesitancy on my part.  After we finished the phone screen, I put the application to the side to see how I felt about this person after I spoke to a few other candidates. Within a few hours of our conversation, I got a thank you note reiterating their excitement and a couple strategic ideas on how this person could excel in the role. This email reiterated the reasons why I liked this person, and my concern evaporated. I was on a strict deadline to get candidates in front of the hiring manager, so I sent the person’s application over ASAP. Now imagine if this person had handwritten a note and dropped it in snail mail? Imagine the person at the front desk forgets to bring me any mail that’s come in for me? How do you think I feel about this candidate now?

Sending snail mail puts your thank you note in the hands of too many people. And the more people that handle it, the higher the likelihood for error — if even just in the time it takes to get to the interviewer. Why not just cut out the middle people and send a direct email…that can easily be replied to should the person feel compelled. Note: Many of us don’t reply to thank you notes. We see them, but then we just go back to whatever other project we were working on. Don’t get anxious if you don’t get a response.

Snail mail thank you notes also limit how dynamic your message can be. You can’t link to an article or video the interviewer may find interesting (Hint: This is a good idea), or quickly change language once you’ve thought of something new to say. Why constrain yourself that way?

All this to say, when possible and unless you’re in a field where handwritten notes are expected (I can’t think of any), just send an email. Doing what’s expected isn’t always a bad thing.

What say you on the topic of thank you notes? Are you still a fan? Do you agree on efficiency of email? What advice do you have for others who are struggling with this? Stories? Share your thoughts in the comments. 

Rich

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  • OK Rich, I see your point. My experience as the coach of job seeker clients is although the handwritten note is not a sure thing and doesn’t guarantee hire, it makes one stand out.

    I have successful clients that wrote the hand written note and got the job. I even had a client who wrote the note and a position was created for her because she was the only candidate who did so.

    By no means to discount your experience, I have talked to HR hiring managers who care less about thank you notes from candidates they no longer consider after completion of the hiring process.

    This is a good perspective that should be heard so job seekers can choose.

    • Rich

      Hey Mark,

      I expected some dissent, so no offense taken or anything like that. Glad you shared your perspective (equally as valuable). Looking forward to seeing what others have to say.

      Rich

  • Monique

    I agree. Handwritten than you notes should only be sent for wedding, babyshower, or maybe birthday gifts. They are too personal for job interviews. It never even crossed my mind for an interview. People do that?

    • Rich

      Way more people than I imagined.

  • Shajuana R.

    I have always been told to send an email and a handwritten note. Is this over kill? I was once on a hiring committee for the company I worked for and we hired someone specifically because they sent a handwritten letter. In this particular situation all of the candidates were equally qualified but the letter stood out to us as someone who went the extra mile.

    • Rich

      Hey Shajuana,

      Thanks for the comment. I can’t argue against your experience. I am curious though. Was there anything special about the handwritten letter other than the fact it was handwritten?

      And yes, I think a thank you email and then a handwritten note is much. Just my personal preference though.

      • Lena

        I live in the Maryland/DC metropolitan area. Im this region of the country, people believe a handwritten letter indicates a great deal of thought went into the thank you because someone took the time to hand write it. In other words, the candidate really wants the job and went the extra mile. (Posted from mobile device. Please excuse typos.)

        • It’s an excellent point Lena. It’s a demonstration of a soft skill that states, “This is how I will treat your clients/customers.” If you are truly “You Inc.,” then you are treating the interviewer as a human being. Again to Rich’s point it is an individual thing, but to many other employers, they expect it.

          It can seal the deal, or it may not. If it is not well-written, grammatically correct, and meaningful, then it could work against you.

  • Hi Rich,
    I see your point, however I am old fashioned in this.
    I make a point to send an email within the same day of my speaking to the person. I follow it up with a snail mail and make sure that the content is not the same as my follow up email in my note.
    So far it has been a mixed experience for me. Nevertheless, I would rather send a hand written note.

    • Rich’s point is valid. HR and Recruiters are human and have preferences. Unfortunately, there are influencers (in the company) who care less and just want the best candidate based credentials.

  • Sandra

    I wouldn’t want to send a handwritten thank you note for several reasons. First of all, my writing might not please the recruiter and I don’t want to reduce my chances of getting hired.

    Second of all, it might take some time for the recruiter to receive it and I can’t do anything about it.

    Finally, some people say that sending a handwritten resume, cover letter or thank you note make you stand out but I don’t think that every hiring manager sees it that way.

  • Lena

    I think is confusion about the difference between a thank you note to thank you letter. I thank you note is written on a card in appreciation for gifts, such as wedding gifts, etc. A handwritten thank you letter is a business letter written by hand on professional stationery. I have sent a thank you email and a handwritten thank you letter after interviews and was offered the positions at different companies. One company owner thanked me for the hand written letter.

  • This is great… When you’re in a position for a really long time and then go back out into the market it is easy to forget the basics. Thanks for the reminder!

  • Lee

    Nice idea, sending an email thank you note, but slightly misplaced in some circles.

    As a long time government contractor, over the years I have often been interviewed off-site by contracting firm because of security restrictions at certain facilities. Often, interviewers will forget business cards or are unwilling to share an email address because they get so much email already. Additionally, the hiring cycle for some government contracts is incredibly lengthy.

    I know all of the above to be true because on the contracts I have worked on, deadlines are often so tight that I as the interviewer have 1) frequently been running late for interviews, 2) forgotten business cards because I’m often not in the “home office” to collect them once I run out, 3) get high volumes of unsolicited email myself because of doing business on behalf of the government with outside vendors, and 4) know that our teams will often conduct interviews several months in advance of a contract award in order to gather from qualified individuals their resumes so that we can submit them to the government with the proposal to show that we already have a pool of qualified candidates to begin work once the contract is awarded.

    I do, however, agree that a thank you note is imperative. I make it a point to speak with HR recruiters several days after the interview to ensure that my snail mail thank you letter did in fact arrive. I am frequently informed that perhaps one interviewee in 50 actually takes the time to send a thank you note, and in several instances, the thank you note that I sent was the deciding factor in me getting the position on a contract where other more highly qualified candidates did not. IT skills can be learned – soft skills, such as courtesy and respect, seem to be much harder to come by in the world of contracting.

    Thank you for sharing.

    • Rich J.

      Hey Lee,

      Thanks for dropping in and sharing your perspective. Point noted regarding variation across industries and glad to see your thank you notes have worked out for you!

  • Customeyes Research

    I have to disagree..hand written acknowledgements get a huge response and are not for weddings or baby showers…the more people that don’t send them the better mine get a response…
    We always send a postcard to people that we have just met thanking them for their time which always results in a thank you response which is mainly by phone.
    Why?
    Because so few business owners send snail mail that receiving a postcard is novel and makes you stand out.

  • Lili

    In the hospitality and travel industry, people expect personalized and preferred service. A handwritten note as a follow-up to an email is appropriate to demonstrate a personal touch and going the extra mile.