Unless a job you are applying for is highly technical with very little human interaction involved, the majority of hiring managers and HR professionals we speak with still appreciate receiving well-written, thoughtful follow up letters and emails. They show a lot about your character, about your ability to interact with others, and can put you over the top if decisions are close. But we've seen enough things go wrong when people rush. Here are a few landmines to avoid:

  1. Being Late. We strongly recommend sending a handwritten note the day of the interview--so the hiring manager gets it within a day or two. It says a lot about you: that you are respectful, thoughtful, and you really want the job, which means you'll work hard. We then recommend following up with a brief email a few days after that. If you wait a week or two to send your notes it sends other messages: You are a procrastinator and you don't really care.
  2. Being Sloppy. Don't get chummy or jokey. Make sure your handwriting is legible and that spelling and grammar are correct. And check everything twice. If Santa has time to check his list twice with a billion kids to get to, we certainly have time to re-read our notes! When Adrian was a senior in college and applied for his first editing job. He explained in his follow-up letter how he loved "words." Weeks passed but no reply. Perplexed, he pulled out a copy of that letter and realized he had told the manager he loved "worlds." Trust me, today he proofs everything twice.
  3. Being Self-Absorbed. Good follow-ups are never generic, i.e., "Thanks for your time!" But more importantly, they are more about them and less about you. For instance your note might focus on a key issue the hiring manager spoke about, i.e., "Thanks for our terrific conversation today about your industry. I can see your marketing efforts are already making a huge impact on Acme's image, and I'm eager to brainstorm with you about how marketing can also drive growth and market share. That's been a key focus during my career!" The specificity about their business shows you pick up on clues, and the action-oriented approach says you want to help solve problems that are important to them.

You'll send different but equally engaging and timely notes to everyone you met during the interview process. And then you'll take a deep breath and relax. It's easy to overdo it. Sending too many notes sends a message too: Stalker!