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Thursday, May 03, 2007
The Job Search Secret Weapon
With life becoming more frenetic by the day and with technology seeming to take over our lives (remember when you could go fly in a plane without having to turn off all your electrical devices first?), little courtesies and niceties seem to be going by the wayside. We are in too much of a hurry these days to concern ourselves with birthday cards or gifts. We send e-cards and gift cards by email instead (if we send anything at all). I note the number of Christmas cards I receive seems to drop by two or three every year. If it can’t be sent by email or Blackberry or instant message, we just don’t do it.

Because of our indifference toward courtesies that were once considered the norm, those same courtesies now stand out and mark us as “different” when we do them. In the context of job search, I’m thinking primarily of thank-you-for-the-interview notes or follow up letters. According to the Hiring Manager panel at the annual conference of the Professional Association of Resume Writers in Dallas, Texas, fewer than 10% of the candidates the panelists interviewed wrote a follow up or a thank you note. Remarkably, of those 10%, 90% of them were called back for subsequent interviews.

In a survey conducted by DayTimer® over 70% of respondents to their poll on communication said sending a handwritten note was friendlier, “demonstrating special effort to communicate”. These results have direct impact on job search. As the hiring managers mentioned above confirmed, follow-up or thank you notes had a definite impact on the success of the job search process for those candidates who went the extra step. With all this data that supports use of follow-up or thank you notes following an interview, why aren’t more job seekers making use of this easy yet powerful step in their job searches?

Potentially, the issue of writing of something by hand may be a hurdle. First of all, it takes time to sit down and write a handwritten thank you note. Few of us are practiced at this lost art and generally have no idea how to phrase what we want to say without sounding trite or corny. Secondly, those of us who do most of our communicating via a keyboard these days, our handwriting really stinks. The muscles in our hands that control the formation of letters are out of practice and the result of pen stroke on paper is fairly pitiful. How many of you think occasionally “Gosh, I used to have decent handwriting when I was in college…” We are out of practice both mentally and physically when it comes to writing with a pen.

The same study by DayTimer® also noted that women appreciated handwritten communications more than men. 54% of women had positive feelings about receiving a handwritten letter. A good percentage of men also appreciated it – 42%. That’s an interesting viewpoint about something most of us ignore these days – courtesy communications.

So what can you do to take advantage of this little-used secret weapon of the job search if you have trouble composing thank you notes and your handwriting is worse than a first-grader’s? Easy – add a thank you letter to your repertoire of professionally developed career documents. Tweak it for each interview or interviewer. Print it on nice stock paper and mail it (gasp!) through the snail mail. Yes, spend money on a stamp even! And here’s a little secret about the secret weapon….handwrite a postscript below your signature. Make a note of something that was discussed during the interview that pertains to the position. You may have to practice a bit with a pen first to get it legible but if it’s short, it won’t be that bad.

Using this combination, you hit several key job search actions: follow up, courtesy, that 10% minority who went to the trouble, the women interviewers and 40%+ of the men interviewers, and something handwritten – all in one action!

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