Samara O'Shea

A Friendly Counterargument

Reader Masa from Baton Rouge sent me a link to this article: Should You Send A Handwritten Or Email Thank You Note After An Interview? The article was written by Jessica Liebman, Managing Editor of Business Insider. She is in charge of editorial hiring and suggests sending thank you notes via e-mail only–don’t waste your time with a hand-written gesture.

I was getting ready to offer my counterargument in the comments section and quickly realized I didn’t have to. The first comment, written by Mike Sprouse, summed it up perfectly. He said:

“Interesting topic, but I actually side the other way pretty vehemently in favor of hand-written notes. I’ve hired hundreds of people, and the hand-written notes always win out, and there’s not one exception. Most likely, I’m not looking to hire someone TOMORROW (just soon). If there’s a candidate I like, I always wait 3-5 days for the mail. Why? Handwritten notes stand out (b/c everyone takes the same tact as you mention – email). Handwritten notes take a whole lot more thought and effort. Plus, the thank you note is not meant to be a dialogue. The dialogue happens before the thank you note, so I’m not interested in having another conversation at that point necessarily. My $.02.”

Well said, Mike! Of course, I’d still like to offer my own thoughts on the matter. Below are Jessica’s points in bold followed by my counter.

“Dangers of the handwritten thank you:

There’s a delay. I’m a firm believer in following up with a thank you note less than 24 hours after the interview, while you’re still fresh in the interviewer’s mind.” – As Mike said, a same-day response isn’t necessary. If the candidate is a memorable one then the interviewer won’t forget about him/her quickly. Also, after reading that person’s resume and meeting with him/her, the hiring manager has thought about that candidate enough for one day. Receiving a letter a day or two later will be a welcome reminder of a promising new hire. Mail the thank you note shortly after you leave the interview and it will arrive in one or two days.

“The letter might never get to your interviewer. It could get lost in the mail, the secretary could throw it out, it could end up in a pile of envelopes that don’t get opened for months.” – A few years back, I e-mailed a cover letter and resume to Philadelphia Style for an editor position. The same day I sent the e-mail, I mailed a short follow-up letter and included my contact information. I figured I already sent one e-mail, why not try a different form of communication for the follow-up. Days later I received an e-mail saying they received my note but had never gotten the initial e-mail (went into the spam file maybe?). I never got a message telling me it was undelivered, so I would have been none the wiser. E-mail does not always get there either.

“It feels old. It’s 2012. Sending a handwritten note just feels ancient to me. Especially if you’re up for a job in the Internet industry. Be current.”– It is 2012, which means everyone opts for e-mail. A hand-written note can help you stand out.

“The chances of the interviewer writing back to you are less. The letter feels more final.” – After the thank you has been dispersed, the next communication should not be a message but rather (ideally) a phone call offering you the job. It is, however, a good idea to include your e-mail at the bottom of the note–in the event that the interviewer does want to write back.

These days, I’m sure there are some executives who might be annoyed with a hand-written thank you, but there are still plenty of people who will appreciate it. Try to assess your audience as best you can. If you were going to interview with Ms. Liebman then you should do your research and discover that she prefers to receive thank you notes via e-mail and accommodate her accordingly.