The Art of the Handwritten Note

I just received a text message from a good friend that recently completed a lengthy job interview process. Very simply, it said, “Got the job. I’m on cloud 9.” I was, of course, incredibly excited for her. I immediately started to think back to the conversations that she and I had about her process for preparing for the interviews and what she would do in the days that followed. I wholeheartedly believe that her preparation and understanding of the organization’s needs landed her the role. I also believe that her methods for post-interview follow up delivered the extra wow! that separated her from the other candidates.

To ensure that you are unique on your quest towards becoming indispensable; do not send follow up emails, send handwritten notes.

1. Know Your Recipient – Tailoring the note to something very specific about the recipient will help to build your credibility. It will also show that you were willing to reflect on previous conversations, take the time to truly understand the person, and draft a meaningful and memorable message. If, during your conversation, you learn that the person loves volunteering, send him the names of organizations that are welcoming new volunteers. If you learn that the recipient is looking for schools to further his education, include business cards from your connections at educational institutions that may be a good fit for him. My friend learned that one of her interviewers loved traveling to Paris, so she found a website that created custom cards and bought one covered with imagery of Paris. She then wrote a very memorable message on the inside, tailored specifically to their conversation. The outcome? The card is still on the interviewer’s desk weeks later.

2. Provoke Thought – A handwritten note is meant to be a relationship builder. It should also add value to the recipient’s life. Find unique quotes and write them on the inside of the card. The quotes that you include should be selected with great care because you want it to be relevant and to get the person to think about the message you’re sending. As an example, I recently sent a card to someone I met who works as an organizational development consultant. On the inside of the card is a quote by Alvin Toffler about learning. Read it here. My hope is that he receives the card, reads the quote, and uses it in the development of his training curriculum.

3. Inspire Positive or Soften Negative Emotions – Depending on preceding circumstances, you may have to become (metaphorically) a cheerleader or a shoulder to cry on. If extending positive emotions, be sure to go above and beyond with your praise or kudos. Use an exclamation point. Inspire hope with encourage language. Or, include a gift card to the recipient’s favorite store to show appreciation. If softening a painful situation, show empathy with a warm apology, an encouraging quote, or a brief story of success in overcoming an obstacle. In either case, it is important for you to show that you can help mitigate bad situations and that you can promote and support accomplishments.

4. Be Brief – According to Dotenotes, Inc., 75% of the six billion pieces of mail sent annually are placed in the trash unopened. They also found that the average person receives 52+ emails per day. These two facts show that your recipient may have little time to absorb your message. So, be brief and ensure that you keep your handwritten note to less than 100 words.

As you continue your journey to becoming indispensable, don’t be like every other job seeker or employee who sends follow-up emails based on a template he found on the web. Be memorable. Create your personal brand and exude it by providing unique experiences when you interact with the world.

As my newly-employed friend can attest to, delivering the extra wow! through a handwritten note will not only help you land your dream job, it will create relationships and new experiences for years to come.