Scary Job Interview Thank You Note Story

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!

For more Work Coach Cafe tips on interview thank you notes:

Did I Screw Up My Job Interview Thank You Letter?

And if you’re curious about handwriting analysis…

Handwriting Analysis

What Your Handwriting Says About You

Get a Job with Help from Your Handwriting

Finally…legal implications of handwriting analysis:

Answers to Legal Questions Regarding Handwriting Analysis


About the author…

Ronnie Ann, founder of Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development and her own adventures as a serial job seeker. She can also be found on her new blog, and on Google+.


  1. Wow. That’s freaky.

    I’m not big on handwriting analysis either, but I can totally picture that serial-killer handwriting.

    You should send this to the people who write scripts for Law and Order. I bet it could be part of a plot (except that you know they’d have to open with the part where they discover the body, and the body would have to be the hiring manager who didn’t heed the warning of the HR person who said, “That dude has serial killer handwriting.”

  2. Hahahaha! Love the way your mind thinks. (Although remind me to remove sharp objects if you ever visit.)

  3. That’s a pretty scary story. It made me go on some of those website you listed and check out what my handwriting says about me 🙂 About thank you notes, I always thought that an email was best, primarily for time efficiency. While yes, a handwritten note is more personal and takes more work than just typing up an email, I also feel like sometimes it would take too long to get to the employer. Great post!

  4. Perhaps one signature is not enough to judge someone, but that queasy feeling in your gut is, in my opinion. It seems the signature reinforced a feeling of uneasiness you had about the guy, which caused you to dig deeper. Handwriting analysis later would help to identify what set you off, but, didn’t need to be integral to the process as you had several different clues to pursue.

  5. Hi Polina! Glad you enjoyed the story. More fun telling than living it, I assure you. 😉 You’re right about snail mail taking longer. Which method you use pretty much depends on the type of job. For some jobs (probably most) a few extra days won’t matter at all, but for others the decision may have to be made fast. This is where you have to use some judgment.

    Then again, if you keep your thank you notes short and respectful, a quick e-mail followed by a handwritten note about a week later may also work well for you – as long as you don’t keep bugging them!

    Hi Muse! Nice to see you. You’re right that instinct plays a big part in hiring no matter what the situation. Then again, if you had seen this particular signature… you may also have reacted just as I did. But of course, as you point out, subtle factors from my other observance may indeed have been part of the picture. And whether you get the offer or not is always about the whole picture!

  6. That is a great story lol.

    I have a really bad, strange, goofy signature, but because I wouldn’t go back and yell at a prospective employer because they didn’t hire me -I’m thinking I’ll stick with it.

    Job Pursuer

  7. Hi Colleen!

    Thanks for making me smile. I can so relate. I would never judge someone based on just a goofy or otherwise strange signature. And to be honest…my own handwriting sucks. But there was something beyond the normal range of strange in this particular handwriting that screamed “Uh oh!” Or at least something that made me extra-aware when I did references. My guess is you have nothing to worry about on that count. 😉

    Good luck in your job pursuit, Job Pursuer!

    Ronnie Ann

  8. I am really enjoying your Work Coach Cafe site and all the great advice. I wish I had seen this before my last interview which was a week ago. The interview with 2 gentlemen (VP and CIO) went great, an hour with each one of them, the position a definite skills match. I had to be honest with them and shared with them that I cannot travel due to an incident. The job description did not include any travel but there is a possible long drive to another site for a team meeting. I shared with them that I hoped it was not a deal breaker but that I could not travel( I am seeing a Dr for this). They assured me the position did not call for any travel. I am wondering now if I should have waited until I got the job to share this? How much do you think this will weigh against me? There were 5 other candidates for the position.After a short email follow up to HR yesterday, I was told they would have an answer by the end of next week. Did I shoot myself in the foot by being too honest with them at the interview?

    Thank you,

  9. Hi Debra!

    Having worked in (and hired for) IT for many years, I’ve found that you never know what will turn an interview. Each interviewer has different triggers.

    Since the job description didn’t require travel, I’d probably have saved the info for later on. These things can always be handled. But since you can’t redo the moment, my guess is if you have all the other qualifications and if there was chemistry, this will not be a deal breaker. In fact, it may have shown them you are an upfront person – a good thing. But as I said, no one can predict the individual mind. 😉

    Good luck, Debra. I’m rooting for you to get the job! Please let us know how it turns out.

    ~ Ronnie Ann

  10. This is an interesting story.

    It was good that this potential employee’s true nature was found out, but I was a bit curious as to the methods used to find out about the person.

    I thought that from a legal standpoint, the only thing previous employers were able to say about an employee was that he/she worked at the company. One is not to ask about the character of the person, etc.

    That’s what someone told me, so I was just curious about this that is all.

    • Hi Tommy!

      Great question. Sometimes when you do reference checking you learn as much from what isn’t said and from the pauses as from what is said. Also…just the way a person responds can usually give you clues. You’re right that legally there are limits about what a former employer can share. But I certainly can ask anything I want about what they were like to work with…within reason. 😉

      • Anonymous says:

        I know hiring employers “can” ask anything they want — as you mentioned — but that still seems like some boundaries were crossed on your part and on the part of whomever told you, whether “off the record” or not.

        For example, had this potential employee not really had these anger management problems and was just not a favorite person of a previous employer, this could’ve been damaging to the person’s character for getting a job. I guarantee you wouldn’t have hired him whether it was true or not as you seemed to immediately believe the story you were told.

        I often worry about this very issue when interviewing, as I quit a previous job and exposed something my boss did to HR after I left. What my boss did to me was inappropriate, unethical and borderline illegal. I am now “no longer rehirable” as he put something in my file, and I am not allowed to see it. I worked their for years, did excellent work and now I can not get a reference. He is no longer with the company and I rehired there, and I can’t get my job back — or any job there — either.

        Anyway, I am sorry this person did in fact have anger management problems and I am glad you were able to find out before hiring him, but I am a little concerned with the ethics of this whole situation and some stories you were told that could have affected his chances to get hired. That really is unethical, in my professional opinion, and doesn’t give me faith in the hiring process as being fair or ethical.

      • chandlee says:

        I think you have read this piece differently than it was intended. The example given was a fictitious example of how a signature that looks like a ransom note could leave a bad impression with an employer as an applicant — that is all. Our main point: Only write thank you notes in your own handwriting if you have good handwriting. Otherwise, you should type it out!

        With regards to your own experience, U.S. companies are required to follow anti-discrimination policies — and most do — which require how and how they cannot respond to employee requests for references on candidates.

        Many companies have a policy of providing only basic details on a past employee — regardless of how well you performed. Example, Eric worked as a Financial Analyst from July 1 2006 to August 31st 2010. He started at $50,000 and was making $67,500 when he resigned his position.

        I have never heard of a company sharing details of information in a former employee’s personnel file with another company.

        I recommend you research government regulations for hiring, if you are in the U.S. see the Department of Labor handbook. Then you may want to talk to HR from your former company and see what information they will be sharing with inquiries.

        I recommend a friendly tone in working with HR — you don’t want to leave them with the impression that you will be taking legal action against them. You do want them to know that you are in the job market and that they may be getting calls from other employers to verify your past employment — and that you want to know their policies.

        If you are feeling discouraged and want additional strategies, I recommend the book No One is Unemployable by Debra Angel and Elisabeth Harney. Good luck!

        Good luck,

  11. Anonymous says:

    I meant that I “reapplied” there, not “rehired” there. Sorry for the typo!

  12. khald u says:

    AS A TELECOM ENGINEER Today i faced my third interview on a telephone call i was thinking that the company is calling me just to come and receive your recommendation letter.but after passing a time i realize that once again im gona interview again by the engineer.this interview was totally about my professional and technical skills.but shit shit shit i dint give the correct answers of all the questions which that person asked from me.right now i drop some words to the general manager which are mentioned below.
    Respected Sir,
    THANK YOU very much i appreciate the time you took to interview me again on a telephone was very enjoyable for me to speak with a CCS Network was a little bit difficult for me to answer all the technical questions briefly because of voice Network issue.

    The job as you presented it, seems to be a very good match for my skills and interests.In addition to my enthusiasm, I will bring to the position strong technical skills, assertiveness and the ability to encourage others to work cooperatively with the department.

    Once again THANK YOU very much for your valuable time.I am very interested in working for you and look forward to hearing from you about this position.and i hope that you will recommend me for the desired post and give me a chance to be a part of this large organization.

    Thank you very much
    Kind regards

    • Susan P. Joyce says:

      Hi Khald,

      If you feel that you gave wrong answers to a couple of interview questions, you could send the interviewer a message where you “clarify” your answers to be correct. That would demonstrate your technical expertise rather than telling them about it.

      Good luck with your job search!

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