How to Write a Good Thank You Note: Email Vs Handwritten

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When I was learning to teach I dreaded being in front of a class at the blackboard. It wasn’t that I was nervous about public speaking; it was that I have terrible handwriting! Like many left-handed people, handwriting, especially on a blackboard, is challenging – you always seem to end up smudging what you’ve just written.

Despite my difficulty with handwriting, I strongly believe there are times in the business world when handwriting is extremely helpful. One of those times is when you send a thank-you note following a job interview.

You do know that you should send a thank-you note after a job interview (If you don’t, now’s the time to revise your post-interview strategy!). And here’s the reason why. Sending a thank-you note makes you stand out from the mass of applicants, your competition. As well, it signals your strong interest in the position. It’s also a courtesy that has fallen by the wayside in some circumstances. (Try getting a thirteen-year-old to send a thank-you note after a birthday gift arrives from a relative.) But handwriting is making a slow but steady (and essential) comeback, especially in job hunting.

Still, the question remains: why a handwritten thank-you note, why not send an email?

One reason is: because email messaging has become so prevalent, a handwritten letter (or note) will draw greater attention, simply because it is less expected. Another is, a handwritten letter conveys a human quality and a kind of intimacy. Of course, you have to make sure that your script is legible. (Even I can do that, if I try hard enough!)

Some believe that you should actually send two thank-you notes, the first by email, the second by regular post. My feeling is, if you only have time for one thank-you note, go with the handwritten note. It will have greater impact. Ideally, you should send both an email and a handwritten note, as I explain in the recommendations that follow.

Recommendations for Post-Interview Thank-You Notes:

1. The Email:

Send a thank-you email message as soon as you can. By the end of the same day you interviewed is optimal. Keep it very short. Most employers will not take the time to read a long, multi-paragraph email. And email messages shouldn’t be more than 3-4 short paragraphs.

The content: Use email to thank the employer for her time, to briefly reiterate your understanding of hers and the organization’s needs, and how you can fulfill them. Conclude by expressing your enthusiasm for the chance to work with this employer.

The purpose: Your thank-you email demonstrates you are conscientious, organized and enthusiastic about the potential job.

2.The Handwritten Thank-you Note:

Mail your handwritten thank-you note within twenty-four hours, since it takes at least a day or two to arrive at its destination.

The Content: This is your opportunity to be more expansive than in your email message. Be aware that the chances of it being read are greater, given the surprise factor. That said, be concise. Briefly reflect on some of the issues that arose in the interview. Share additional thoughts that occurred to you after the fact (if you have something worth adding). If appropriate, address something of importance that failed to come up during the interview. You may also want to demonstrate that the interview gave you a keener understanding of the company and its goals. And now you are even more excited about the possibility of working with the organization.

The Purpose: Your handwritten thank-you note demonstrates your thoroughness and attention to detail. It shows that you are considerate, that it’s important to you to “go that extra mile” for something you really care about.

You may find the thought of writing a thank-you note as daunting as writing a cover letter. But if you stay sharply focused, it isn’t difficult to compose and it really is an important part of your job search.

So when it comes to that question: to (hand) write or not to write? Definitely handwrite. Not only is there a good chance it will give you the leading edge, the journalist Gwendolyn Bounds reports that there is new research indicating handwriting may actually improve the way your brain works! And that can only help you when you land that job.

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