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. 


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