One thing you should always do after a job interview—and another you should avoid

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I always thought sending a handwritten thank-you note after a job interview said more than sending a thank-you email.

I was wrong.

When I interviewed for my current job, I had already purchased, addressed, and stamped a $6 card. After I left the interview, I wrote my thanks and immediately slipped it into the mailbox near the office.

I got the job, and, a few months later, was chatted with my coworkers about ways we've tried to impress interviewers throughout our careers. I told them all the ways I had stressed over making sure the note I had sent them was just right. My bosses looked at me blankly.

Turns out they had never received my card.

That's the problem with handwritten letters: They're a nice idea, but they can so easily get lost in the mail. They can take days to arrive. The person you sent the letter to may not check her mailbox everyday. By the time they open and read your card, if they ever do, they may have already hired someone else.

I was lucky but if you rely on a note sent through the mail you may not be.

What not to do at work this year

These days, an email is even more important than a handwritten letter. Make sure you take as much time to craft it as you would a $6 greeting card and send it whether or not you're also mailing a note.

Here are some guidelines for how to nail the post-interview email:

  • Send the email ASAP, or at least within 24 hours, but wait until you're at a computer and can read over what you've written. Don't dash something off on your phone or at 3:00 AM. Odds are it will be riddled with typos and come off as unprofessional.
  • Thank the recipient for taking the time to meet with you.
  • Try to mention something that came up in your conversation to show you were listening.
  • In an upbeat sentence or two, reiterate why you're a good fit for the position and are excited to join the team. Remember, being likeable will get you hired but self-promotion won't.

If the interviewer also gets your thoughtful, handwritten card, that's a great bonus. But definitely make sure they get your email.

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