Should Your Interviewer Get a Thank-You Note or eThanks?

email-or-letter-thank-you-to-job-interviewerShould you thank an interviewer with an email or a card? We’ve wondered about this for a while as well, so reader J’s question strikes us as particularly interesting…

After an interview, everyone knows that it is good manners to send a perfunctory “Thank You” note. However, is it still recommended that the “Thank You” note be a hand-written note sent through snail mail or is it equally appropriate to send a “Thank You” after an interview via email? I am old-fashioned and still send a hand-written note on nice Crane & Co. stationary, however, an email “thank you” would certainly get there faster. I am not sure what is considered appropriate these days!? Any thoughts??

First, we would say that the thank-you note should be far from perfunctory — it reinforces what you spoke about in the interview, why you’re qualified for the job, and allows you to clarify anything that you worry came across poorly.  (Pictured:  Orange notecards, 25 thermographed notecards for $152 at Fine Stationery.)

That said, we’re sort of torn on how to send your interviewer their thank-you note. For us, it mostly comes down to a question of time (we are masters of the 7th-day thank you, which is just about the longest you can wait to send one). For the most part, then, we have done e-mail thank yous at least since 2003 or so. We have made exceptions for that, however. For example — a few years ago this author had a coffee catch-up with a man who has been a guiding force in my career since before grad school, the uncle of a friendly colleague, who happened to be working in my dream job. He and I have only met a few times over the past decade — I doubt he would recognize me on the street, even! — but his advice has not steered me wrong. We met for coffee, and again he gave invaluable advice, and I decided to send him a personal, hand-written thank-you note. As I was writing it out, it suddenly felt weird — my handwriting looked so messy on the page. My personalized stationery, normally reserved for Grandma and aunts, suddenly felt too “too.” It all felt maybe a little too… emotional. Girly. Not professional. Still, I struggled past these concerns and sent him the thank-note by mail.

Cut to 2 years later and I was trying to find our last correspondence to meet with him, and was alarmed to find no thank-you note in my e-mail files. Had I not sent one? It was only a very visual memory of dropping the note in a mailbox that jarred my memory. He never mentioned the note, so I have no idea what he thought about it (if anything). Still, that was the experience with the note. So our $.02 is to send the thank-you note by e-mail: gets there quicker, you know it was received, and you have a record for your files of what you sent.

But readers, what has your experience been? Let’s take a poll… and please comment below.

thankyou

Comments

  1. Kristin B. :

    Always a handwritten note snail mailed, but sometimes the addition of an email thank you if the decision is to be made more rapidly then the postal service can handle (example “we will be making our decision sometime in the next two days”).

  2. Call me old-fashioned. There’s nothing like a hand-written “thank you” note. An email might suffice in a pinch. But there’s nothing like a hand-written note to set a person apart from the crowd. I have never, ever received a hand-written note that I thought was “too” anything. In fact, I’m even impressed when the Brooks Brothers salespeople send me hand-written notes thanking me for my business!

    • The handwritten note does stand out… but to me, sometimes not in a great way – When I’ve interviewed ten people rapid fire, and I receive 9 professionally written e-mails and one handwritten note on a piece of floral stationery, I can’t help but scrutinize the handwriting – and if that note has a smear, a cross-out, illegible handwriting, or a spelling error, then the impression left on me is definitely less than favorable.

      • As an interviewer, the only handwritten notes I have ever received have been from women. Not sure what this means, other than maybe that women obsess over this type of thing more, but it is another way hand written notes stand out to me in a not bad, but not necessarily good way either.

        • I think etiquette just matters to women more than men. I get more thank you notes from women, period, whether they’re emailed or handwritten. I also think men tend to have worse handwriting and thus lean toward emailing.

  3. We just returned from our spring recruiting trip for next year’s summer program. Although I wouldn’t “not” choose a qualified candidate that I liked because she or she failed to send a thank you note, I was appalled that some of the students we interviewed sent no thank you at all (particularly in this economic climate where most firms aren’t even bothering to visit law school campuses). Call me old fashioned, but I perceive e-mailed thank yous as the path of least resistance and really, really appreciated the pile of hand written thank you notes we received (several of which were so well-written they even made me feel guilty we had decided not to hire those students).

    • But have you ever changed your hiring decision (either current or future) based on those hand-written notes? If the answer is “no” (which it is in my case), then frankly, what’s the point?

      • Because it all lends itself to making a good impression. As the economy gets tougher, so do the decisions. If I am faced with two students with excellent grades/schools/resumes and great personalities whom I can’t decide between, and one takes the time/goes out of his or her way to send a note, of course that tips the scales. More importantly, to the one who “didn’t bother”, it makes me wonder why I should bother with them. The goal of an interview is to leave a positive impression and every little bit adds up to that overall positive impression. Would you not hire someone who comes to the interview in scuffy shoes? Perhaps not. However, the students who maximize the positive impression they leave on interviewers are the ones who get the jobs.

  4. anonymous :

    I like getting emailed thank you notes — email lives forever, where a paper note gets tossed. And an email note lets me quickly reply to the sender, which I like to do in case it gets to the point where we are recruiting him or her.

    • Au contraire – e-mails become lost more quickly than a physical note, which is stapled to the top of the resume, or sits upon the desk.

      • Sorry, I’ve never saved an interviewee’s thank-you note for more than maybe a day – and I’ve never stapled it to anything (in my last big corporate job, resumes of people we’d interviewed for a position had to go to Document Management once we were done with them). I have, however, searched my email for someone’s e-mailed thank-you note, to get their contact information from it – if my original hire doesn’t work out, or I want to refer them to someone who is hiring. People are using paper less and less these days, because it is just flat-out not as convenient. I can’t thumb through the paper files in my file cabinet in the middle of a meeting with a client at their offices, but I CAN search my email from my Blackberry. I’d hate to miss out on an opportunity because someone couldn’t put their hands on my contact info when they needed it.

  5. Both! Send a quick email thank you that same day or the next morning and then drop one in the mail.

    • I agree!

      The email gets there early enough that I still remember the details, and getting a hand-written thank you always makes me feel warm and appreciated when I receive it a week or so later.

  6. In tech, in California, we would not know what to do with a hand-written thank you note. That said, the email should be well-formatted, formal, and more than three sentences.

  7. Christine :

    The only exception I make for my hand-written note rule is when I know snail mail will take too long. Mail going to a federal office can take weeks so email is preferred. I like the idea of following up with a hand-written note as well.

  8. litigatrix :

    Handwritten notes are best. They’re the most traditional, show your personality a bit, and require the most effort, which makes them seem the most sincere and thoughtful. The notecard should be professional and simple – either personalized stationery with your name/initials, or store-bought thank-you cards with no cutesy design.

    In the interest of time, email might be more efficient in some cases, for instance if you know they will make a hiring decision quickly or if you also have a follow-up question for the interview to which you want a response.

    Under no circumstances should you mail a typewritten note. That’s just awkward. It makes you look like you have no personality and couldn’t put the time and effort into actually writing a card, and it doesn’t save any time or efficiency.

    • litigatrix :

      I should add two things –

      Re: notecard design, it’s fine to have some design. I’d just avoid cute/funny ones. A lot of mass-produced cards are goofy or have overly girly designs. You don’t want to be remembered as the woman who sent the ladybug card with the stupid pun.

      Also, I would never ding someone because they didn’t send a card, but it’s polite and somewhat expected. Sending a tasteful thank-you for any situation, not just an interview, shows that you understand etiquette and common courtesy. That’s an asset for any professional. I write thank-you notes, and receive them from colleagues, for things like birthday lunches or office secret Santa. The notes are appreciated.

    • I disagree. I think typewritten, hand-signed notes are fine as long as they are personal to the interview so it doesn’t look like they were mass-produced with a mail merge program. I would never send a handwritten note that just said “thanks for interview, it was nice meeting you, hope to hear from you soon” either, though, because it looks like you wrote them out in advance. I don’t think store-bought “professional and simple” notecards show your personality either, by the way, which doesn’t matter because that’s not the point of thank-you notes.

      The most important thing is to send SOMETHING. I have interviewed many candidates and have received no thank-yous at all. I don’t remember their names. The ones I have received thank-yous from I remember for at least a little while. I remember them longer if they said, “hey, thanks for sharing with me the information on the firm’s professional development philosophy” or whatever we actually talked about.

      • Professional looking notecards from your alma mater are sometimes good choices as well.

        • It depends how long you’ve been out of school. From a new grad, maybe. If you’ve been out of school more than five years, forget it. I personally think it’s a little pretentious – I’d rather see a monogram or something.

        • If you’re a student or recent grad, or if your interviewee went to your school, yes, absolutely. I would definitely like to receive a card with my alma mater’s logo on it from an interviewee who also went there. It reinforces what we have in common.

      • litigatrix :

        I think that notecards show your personality – they show your favorite color, for example, or if you like monograms, or if you like a particular style of art. You can tell a lot about someone’s style from their choice of notecard. And if the person sends a ladybug card with a bad pun, you can tell that they don’t have the judgment to be a successful attorney :).

    • I disagree completely. In my experience, the typed thank you letter is the norm. I would save the handwritten note for the unique/special situation, such as C’s above (coffee w/ a mentor). The problem with any snail mail thank you letter in big law is that shortly after the interviewee leaves, we fill out an evaluation form and send it on to recruiting. By the time we receive the letter, we’ve already sent in the evaluation. In those circumstances, send an email to the interviewee and a typed letter to recruiting.

  9. I think it depends on the circumstances of the interview and the interviewer. If a decision is going to be made quickly then an e-mail seems more appropriate. If however, the person who interviewed you is more old fashioned, say an older federal judge is what comes to mind, a handwritten note seems more appropriate.

    I don’t think I would ever send both, that seems repetitive and maybe desperate ?

  10. What mighty fine timing, Corporette! I’ve just interviewed for a government job (but not the kind that involves KSAs, USAJobs, or anything overly bureaucratic sadly) and have been advised to drop off hand-written thank you cards as 1.) snail mail would take weeks due to security measures and 2.) it shows aggressiveness needed for this type of job. I interviewed with 3/4ths of the staff, though, and it seems weird to drop off thank you cards with the front-desk person who was at the interview. I’m over thinking this, I know.

    • litigatrix :

      I’d drop off the card with the most senior person, and ask her to convey your appreciation to her colleagues (list the colleagues by name). Although in a case like this, I think individual emails to each of them are also fine.

    • Who gave you the advice??

      I would drop off one card to the senior person and email the rest. That said, how will people know you dropped off the cards (demonstratred aggressiveness)? People dropping off mail to my federal agency come into the clerk’s office and there’s a basket there to drop off internal mail. You can’t go any further due to security. The admins would NEVER go downstairs to pick something up — it’s enough of an effort just to get them to go meet an interviewee and escort them up. I would never know if the mail came through internally or externally; it’s all delivered the same.

    • LJ, just curious as to why you said commented that “sadly” the job you interviewed for was not the KSA/USAJobs type? I’m trying to get a job in DC w/ the federal government as an attorney from a non-DC firm and have been applying to many of the KSA/USAJobs type. The application process has seemed daunting. Any and all advice on federal hiring appreciated.

      • As you probably know, the KSA-type jobs interview the top five or ten people who had the highest scores after their application answers are evaluated based on keywords, work experience, et cetera. Personally, I like that sort of impersonal touch. I’m a weirdo, I know. A friend of mine who now works at a big federal agency and who has grilled many an HR rep there (but still, with a grain of salt), says the most important thing with KSAs particularly is to hit on the keywords the agency has used in the job description. That helps bump up your score.

  11. anon - chi :

    If it’s a thank you note for an interview, email it. I’ve received both handwritten and emailed notes, and while the handwritten ones are very nice, they inevitably arrive after a decision has already been made. I’ve received email thank yous only 30 minutes after interviewing a candidate, though I would not think badly of someone who did not bother to send either.

    If it’s a thank you for anything other than an interview (i.e. a present, advice, etc.) definitely handwrite it and send it by snail mail. It’s more meaningful and less “business-y” than email.

  12. I used to send hand written notes back in the days when I was looking for gig. Now that I’m doing interviewing I prefer email. But both handwritten and emailed notes are sent to our recruiter, and filed. So we definitely do notice when someone doesn’t send thank you notes at all, or sends identical ones. Definitely not a hire/not hire decision maker either way, though.

    I think rather than worry about email v. handwriting, you should pay attention to the content of the note, and make sure it reiterates a point you discussed with the interviewer, so they will remember you. I perfunctory “nice meeting you” note on paper will impress me less than an emailed note that reinforces a topic we discussed.

  13. At my firm, we have to get our evaluation of interviewees done within a day or two. So, if you don’t email it, its likely that the person won’t have received it before they wrote the eval. I’ve never really cared one way or the other. (Funny story … had a friend who interviewed for a job, and his wife told him to send a thank-you. He thought it was silly but she kept pestering, so he sent them a thank you that essentilaly said “my wife made me send this, I’m not sure why, but thanks for interviewing me.” He got hte job, and they loved the thank-you note. But he works for a creative industry, and I’m not actually recommending this route to anyone.)

  14. Elle Woods :

    A handwritten thank you note sounds lovely, but I would be far too worried that 1) it will arrive after they’ve already made up their minds and/or 2) it gets lost in the mail. E-mail is the way forward and I would save handwritten thank yous for personal occasions such as weddings and birthdays (not that I ever write thank you notes in generally and now feel bad about it, but still).

    That’s just me, though…

  15. Stephanie :

    As much as I love paper, I always at least send an email thank you. As many have said, email gets there faster. I send thank you cards more for informal interviews and meetings when I am trying to establish working relationships.

    I had an interview once with the SVP of an organization and sent a thank you email to him the next day. Turns out that the person who they offered the job to declined and I was later told my email thank you was what pushed me over the top for the job since it made the SVP remember who I was. Best move I ever made. This person became my mentor and 10 years later, I owe a lot of my career advancement to him.

    Had I sent a hand written letter, it wouldn’t have gotten there in time and the job would have been offered to someone else. It also might have been intercepted by the Personal Assistant and never given to him.

    • Great story, and an excellent point. My experience is that assistants screen paper mail a lot more than they screen their boss’ e-mail, plus with most executives, they usually have a Blackberry or other mobile method of getting their email. You can have a high degree of confidence the person making the hiring decision sees the thank-you note. I imagine it’s pretty easy for an assistant to take one look at a handwritten thank-you, say “oh, I’ll give him/her this later” and shunt it to the side.

  16. As a “biglaw” associate who has interviewed dozens of new and lateral candidates, I recommend email thank you notes in the large law firm setting. We are encouraged by our hiring committees to get the evaluations in as soon as possible, and though handwritten thank yous are nice to get, they are often received long after evaulations are written and decisions are made.

  17. Hand-written notes may look pretty when you first get them, but I always am at a loss as to what to do with cards. Do I just toss them in the trash right after I get them? For some unknown reason I feel like I should hang onto those cards for awhile.

    • I staple them to the paper copy of the person’s resume, where I also have my hand-written notes from the interview. So when it’s time to do reviews/decisions, I’ve got it all in front of me.

  18. MissAnnOnymous :

    A few years ago, I had a morning interview and called HR later that day to get the official mailing address. When I called at 3pm, I was told there was no need to send a hand-written note because I was already hired. I switched gears and immediately sent out 6 email thank yous to the panel I had met with.

    If time allows for a mailed note, I believe it says a great deal about who you are as a professional. In this economy, there may be plenty of time to mail a note with every opening receiving hundreds of applicants.

  19. Handwritten note all the way. It’s classy.

  20. I’m a partner in a top law firm, and I find I actually hold handwritten notes against people just a little bit. They almost always come from women, interestingly enough. That’s of course not a problem for me, but I wonder how my male colleagues see it. Handwritten notes also seem a little old-fashioned, signalling that the sender may not understand how the professional world typically works. I think an email is great — best if it conveys some particular aspect of our conversation, or a follow-up thought, rather than just general thanks.

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