I recently posted about after interview thank you notes in Did I Screw Up My Job Interview Thank You Letter? This got me thinking about a time when a hand-written thank you letter made all the difference as to whether the guy got the job or not – but not in the way you might think.
Now in most cases, it’s a really nice touch to send a hand-written snail mail thank you note to each person who interviewed you. It shows you think about details and understand the importance of relationship-building and networking. I can’t tell you I’ve done that in all cases in my own career or that it will necessarily get you the job, but it is a nice touch.
But I promised you a scary story, so here goes…
I often help consulting clients with their job interviews by screening resumes, performing initial phone and in-person interviews, and also participating in group interviews. One company had been looking to fill a certain tech position for months, with no luck. I didn’t help screen or do the first or second interview for this one, but they asked me to sit in on a final interview for one guy. (This was third interview.)
He seemed ok but I didn’t get a “wow” feel for him and never had a chance to speak with him on my own. Still, after three interviews and no other likely candidates, they were desperate and leaning strongly toward making the offer anyway.
Interview Fate Steps In
I happened to be schmoozing with the head of the desperate department, and he showed me a hand-written ” thank you for the third interview” note the person had sent. It was a pleasant enough note, although a bit stilted and overly formal. But since we were hiring the person for his excellent tech skills and not his language skills, that was ok. Then I noticed something…and to this day I don’t quite know why I got the feeling I did, but the signature screamed BIG PROBLEM to me.
No…I’m not a handwriting expert. While I have read some articles on handwriting analysis, I’m not totally convinced of the science behind it – at least not to the levels I’ve seen it taken. All I know is the signature I saw looked really scary to me. The huge letters mixed with tiny letters…the erratic and varying angles and slants…different thicknesses in the one signature…and I can’t remember what else – well, it just gave me the creeps.
I can almost hear some of you saying…whoa! One signature is not enough to judge anyone. I know. You’re right. But still I had this strange feeling in my gut and, reviewing the interview in my mind and what I noticed there that I kind of ignored because of our desperation (a VERY bad way to hire), I just couldn’t let go of the feeling something was very wrong here.
Long job interview thank you note story short
After careful research and off-the-record discussions with former employers, it turned out this person had a huge anger problem and has been let go quite a few times. (He told us he left those previous jobs for better opportunities.) I really had to pump for info to find out the truth, but the palpable reluctance I got from every reference to say more than a basic yes or no (this is not a good sign), spoke loudly to me.
And finally I got someone to tell me at least a few of the scary details. Details we saw for ourselves in person after we called to say we were sorry but we wouldn’t be making an offer – and he came in person a couple of times to scream at us (kept calling too), and threatened he’d get even. It was pretty scary!
So does that mean you should never send a handwritten thank you letter to a potential employer?
No. Of course not. It just means every single thing you submit to a potential employer is part of the story you’re trying to tell – and things you might never imagine will be noticed!
So as I’ve said before, when it comes to job interview thank you notes…
- Keep it short.
- Keep it sweet.
- Watch for typos.
And now I add…
- Remember that even your writing &/or signature says something about you!