interview thank you email

Interview Thank-You Email or Letter or Note?

The debate over sending an interview thank-you email, versus a letter or a note, probably started about a minute after the first email went out.

Well, maybe not. I just checked. The first email hit cyberspace in 1971. Wow, email is 50 years old, and we still wonder if it’s OK to use it to thank someone for an interview.

Before COVID, It Didn’t Matter

I was super happy to see that Robert Half did a survey in late 2017 and found that HR managers didn’t care if they received an email or a note.

See:

interview thank you

I know the RH research didn’t cover hiring managers, but we take our surveys where we can find them.

BTW, just because HR doesn’t care how you thank them (as long as it’s an email, letter, or note), they do care that you thank them.

In a late 2020 TopResume survey of hiring managers and recruiters, 68% of respondents said that receiving an interview thank-you letter impacts their decision-making. At a minimum, it signals your continued interest in the job.

And, you will stand out in a good way when you send a thank-you.

Why?

Because, per a 2019 CareerBuilder survey, only 43% of interviewees show interviewers that courtesy.

Pros & Cons

If you’ve ever wondered, “Do I have to send a thank-you after an interview?” I hope all that survey data convinced you. Yes, you do.

Moving on, let’s look at the pros and cons of using emails, letters, and hand-written notes.

The Interview Thank-You Email

Pros:

  • It lets you demonstrate good writing and follow-up skills.
  • You get enough space to express yourself.
  • Fast. It proves you can be responsive.
  • It can be spell and grammar checked.
  • Recipients can e-file it.

Cons:

  • It lets you demonstrate poor writing skills.

Example of an Interview Thank-You Email:

  • You will find a fantastic interview thank you email here.
The Snail Mail Interview Thank-You Letter

Pros:

  • It lets you demonstrate good writing and follow-up skills.
  • You get enough space to express yourself.
  • It can be spell and grammar checked.

Cons:

  • Per a LinkedIn poll I ran in early 2021 (results below), hardly anyone (3%) wants a snail mail thank-you letter anymore.

Example of an Interview Thank You Letter:

  • You will find the best interview thank-you letter I have ever received here. Yeah, it was a while ago. It would make a good email too.
The Interview Thank-You Note

Pros:

  • It lets you demonstrate good writing and follow-up skills.
  • Because of its brevity, it’s likely to be a genuine “thank-you” and not an extended pitch.

Cons:

  • As a respondent to my poll noted, with many people working from home now, you can’t be sure your note will ever get to its intended recipient.
  • My poll respondents overwhelmingly preferred emails.

Example of an Interview Thank-You Note:

  • I haven’t received a handwritten interview thank-you note compelling enough to save and share. The limited space works against you in this regard.
2021 LinkedIn Poll Results
(Recruiters, HR, Hiring Managers, Professionals)

Interview Thank-You Poll

Do You Want to Look Digital or Analog?

You know how career experts used to tell you to get rid of your AOL email address and get a Gmail account because an AOL address makes you look outdated (i.e., old)?

Well, AOL email has been around since 1992. Thus, when you insist on using a letter or note, you’re using technology that’s older than an AOL email address.

As we move further into a digital world, where the odds are high you will have to work with technology to have a job, sending a thank-you email makes you look more digital and less analog.

Conclusion & Thanks

Make it easy for everyone. Use email for your interview thankyou missives.

Thanks to Jenica Cogdill, Courtney Crowley, Dorothy Dalton, Raghu Kalé, and Sachin Shah for insights included in this post.

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Comments

Don’t miss the comments section. A lot of readers disagreed with me when I first published this post. I wonder what you think in 2021.

Featured by: SmartBrief on Your Career.
Image: WavebreakMediaMicro
Updated February 2021

© 2015 – 2021, Donna Svei. All rights reserved.

Comments 19

  1. Donna, I like your pros and cons.
    What about the argument for sending both. An immediate brief email thank you and then a follow up hand written. Overkill?

  2. Aloha, Donna! I have to disagree. I really believe that writing a thank you note is a classy, necessary step, and that e-mail should be reserved for short turn-around decisions, or, as Hannah mentions, an immediate thank you while the snail mail makes its way to the interviewer. I especially think notes should be written when the interviewee is seeking a competitive position within an organization that has a brick-and-mortar place of work with a hiring manager that was part of the interview team.

    As a member of Generation X, I was both an early adopter to e-mail and remember the days of typewritten resumes. In my work with millenials, I am sometimes saddened by their unwillingness to handwrite anything, much less complete any type of follow up. In the class I teach, a handwritten thank you note to an informational interviewee is a requirement, and many students have received incredible “thank yous” to their thank you notes.

    Again, this may be market-driven, since we are located in Honolulu, Hawaii, and probably have a higher percentage of laggards than in other metropolitan areas. I do believe however, that the handwritten note is worth the time and if done well (for example, as the interviewee in your June 2013 post did), can make a favorable impression for the candidate. ~Angela

  3. Donna, you provide an interesting perspective. I think the main point is that a well thought out thank you of any form is appreciated and sets the candidate apart. I’m 60yo, was an early adopter and am a huge proponent and user of email. Even so, there’s nothing like the power of a gracious, hand-written note. It demonstrates the writer has at least some modicum of soft skills that candidates so often lack and that employers desire.

  4. Donna, your article was thought provoking but I’d have to disagree. This article, like many related to job search, are written from a broad occupation intent. Some occupations, such as mine (Graphic Design professional/professor) are print based and if the interview was with an art director, agency head etc., a printed piece would be appropriate. Heck, I letterpress print my thank you cards on a 1929 press. Talk about personal! Yes, an email will be faster but who really cares if it’s a day or two later? If speed is the most important thing, just drop a card off on the welcome mat on the way out. In job search, one size does NOT fit all and often is misleading if intended to fit all. And regarding you “laggard” comment, wouldn’t the applicant’s computer proficiency be covered in the resume or interview? Sincerely, David

  5. Donna,

    I always enjoy your column, and thank you for this thoughtful bit of advice which, although valuable, I probably seldom will follow. I tend to agree with Angela, but I view the correct answer to the question whether you should send e-mail or a note as situational. If the job is with Google, an e-mail from your G-mail (not Yahoo) account would be fine. I think e-mail is fine for lots of other employers as well, particularly if your interview is with the HR department. If the employer uses a computerized applicant system, that also sends a message that electronic communication is acceptable.

    Employers in traditional industries are unlikely to be offended by a letter or note. Personal correspondence cards engraved on hard stock are more expensive than off-the-shelf thank you cards, but give an impression of substance rather than informality. As an attorney, my interviewer may be the equivalent of a C-suite executive, owner of a business, a government agency director or a partner at a law firm. One can compose the message on computer, use the spell and grammar check, then print on the note cards (in a script font if you like) and sign the note in ink. This ensures the message is readable. And, I’ve never had trouble finding a way to make sure the note reaches the interviewer’s office the next day.

    I send similar notes to anybody who makes a personal recommendation or a telephone call on my behalf. Although e-mail surely would not offend in 2015, personal correspondence stands out because nobody else does it.

  6. Sorry – I completely disagree with the premise of this article. Working in an IT field and hiring many over the years, I can tell you that I, and all other hiring managers I posed this question to, absolutely prefer, and appreciate the time a candidate takes to personalize a brief hand-written thank you note following an interview.

    We MUCH prefer this over an e-mail. I also consider it wrong and inaccurate to label those that do send a hand-written note as a “tech-Laggard” or any similar such denigration. On the contrary, we already know all candidates are familiar with technology, certainly to the extent to exchange e-mails. Indeed, nearly every step of the application and subsequent communication process is done online and electronically through e-mails and digital files exchanged -yes, it is the most rapid, fool-proof method for conducting such business -which is why everybody does it.

    An e-mail thank you is viewed upon as the lazy, effortless, way to ‘show you care’. A hand-written note immediately conveys a sense of purpose, desire, perseverance -and a bit of class. It is much more personal than an e-mail -ANYONE can crank out a quick e-mail. It also gives a chance to see another side of the candidate – penmanship, composition, personality in their writing style, choice of stationery, etc. It also shows that they have some manners -probably taught well by good parenting, the candidates are already accustomed to thanking their teachers, grandparents, or others that did them a favor or gave them a gift. It is a personal way to show appreciation. Genuine appreciation. We LOVE hand-written thank you notes!

    You suggest candidates should not write a note because they have to “hunt” for stationary? They have to go through the ‘trouble’ of finding and buying an ‘expensive’ stamp? Your kidding, right? A potential job, perhaps a life-ling career, is not worth a piece of paper, envelope and a 50-cent stamp? And oh, the time and trouble that went into it…

    A job, and the often agonizing, time-consuming effort to find the right one, is a life-changing, milestone event. It deserves a little extra attention -to stand apart from the e-mail masses, if nothing else.

    Would you send an e-mail thanking your wedding guests for their gifts? Do you send an e-mail sympathy comment to a relative when a loved one passes away? These are also significant, life-defining events.

    Many things in life, perhaps most, can be handled with easy, fast, free, e-mail communications. – it’s a fantastic tool and huge time-saver. Thanking me for considering you for a career with my organization is not one of them.

  7. Hi Donna,
    I am a legal recruiter and I am very adamant that my candidates send a hand written thank you to everyone that they interview with…and I do mean everyone. To me it is laziness in the first degree to send an email, it conveys nothing about the candidates desire to get the job. With most Attorneys they receive hundreds of emails a day and a candidate who sends one is just one more in the pile. Think about it, a Partner gets 350 emails a day, he clicks on a candidate email…yeah, yeah and hits delete. My candidate sends a thank you card and wham that candidate is now back in the mind of the Partner. Where receiving a hand written note thanking the partner for taking the time to speak with them about the job at their firm sets my candidates apart. I have even had Partners comment on getting a thank you card. So, in some ways continue to push those emails and my candidates will continue to stand out from the crowd and have better success when it comes to the position.

  8. I think one aspect that went unmentioned was this: email thank you’s can easily get lost in the shuffle. Especially for those who are more ‘innovative/modernized’, they receive an immense amount of email daily, whereas they receive fewer items via mail. A handwritten thank you will certainly stand out!

  9. Thank you Amanda. This is true for people who read their mail. I tend to go through mine once a month. Thus, I likely wouldn’t see a snail mail thank you in a timely fashion. We have so many modes of communication now that it’s a little crazy making. Given that the average professional spends 28% of their time on email, an interviewer might be most likely to see an email.

  10. Laz,

    Thank you for this. So FEW people write any thank you at all that I’ll stand by my assertion that email is a fine medium to use. Nonetheless, I appreciate your passionate advocacy for the handwritten note.

    Regarding the loss of a loved one, Facebook seems to be the most common medium used now. It’s kind of sad, yet it also allows a conversation between people in remote locations that wasn’t possible before FB.

    Donna

  11. Such a beautifully written comment Steve, I’d love to read anything you wrote, even if you used a napkin!

    Donna

  12. David,

    It’s true. Career writers can’t address every vertical. In the end, you always have to use your judgment. In the case of thank you emails, letters, and notes I would consider the email the current standard and make sure I understand why I’m deviating from the standard.

    I appreciate your comment. One of the beauties of blogging is the opportunity to gather a variety of perspectives on a topic. That makes for a richer understanding.

    BTW, I bet your cards are gorgeous.

    Donna

  13. Hi Murphy,

    Thank you for this. You demonstrate so nicely that we should always think about our audience when writing anything. Certainly, if your sense of the interviewer is that s/he would like a handwritten note, then send a handwritten note.

    From my perspective, I liked Angela’s point about using a handwritten note for informational interviews. Those are personal favors that call for a personal thank you. On the other hand, a job interview is a business meeting. I find a handwritten note a little too familiar for a job interview thank you (which is I why I mentioned “tone” above).

    Kind regards,

    Donna

  14. Thank you for this Angela. I appreciate that you took the time to share your thoughts. I agree that it’s a nice touch following an informational interview or networking meeting. Those are more personal meetings. I don’t think it’s appropriate any more after a job interview. I’m curious to hear what other people think. Donna

  15. Most of the “cons” are actually “pros.” Since when did putting in a little effort to personalize a “thank you” become a negative? It takes little more time to handwrite “Dear Mr. So-and-so, Thank you for meeting with me last Thursday. I enjoyed our discussion and learning more about ______. I look forward to meeting your colleagues…” or whatever two lines are appropriate than sending an email. ESPECIALLY when everyone else is sending emails. I strongly recommend obtaining professional “correspondence cards” and using them for thank you notes (avoiding having to find the “right card” every time.

  16. Hi Michael,

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. Multiple perspectives help people make decisions!

    Kind regards,

    Donna

  17. There isn’t one right answer to this question; it depends on the job, the situation, and what stage you’re at in the interview process. When applying for a job recently, I sent a thank you email after the phone interview and thank you emails to the eight people I met at the second round, in-person interview. (At this stage, eight handwritten cards felt ridiculous and overdone.) Once I got to the third interview, which was more personal – two people, including lunch afterwards – email felt a bit cold. So I sent handwritten notes to those two.

    While I agree that email is often perfectly fine as a way to thank people, a few of the premises here strike me as fairly absurd: that professionals do not open their physical mail in a timely fashion, that the bit of effort and slight expense involved in sending a handwritten thank you note is reason not to do it, that finding a pen requires effort (!), and that sending a handwritten note says anything at all about one’s technological savviness.

    When done well, in the right context, a handwritten note demonstrates sophistication and good judgment. (Of course, like any communication, they can also be done poorly and convey the opposite.)

    And in my experience, quality wins over quantity in the job application process. Better to invest the time it takes to execute each step of the process as well as you can for a few well-chosen jobs than to apply to a boatload of jobs and cut corners in order to do so.

  18. Hi E,

    Thank you for this. I like the way you describe evaluating each situation to sense what seems right.

    Donna

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