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Thank you note after the interview: hand written or email?

email Thank you note

Is an email thank you note good enough after an interview?

Thank you notes, email or handwritten?

HRNasty, I just got out of an interview and want to send a thank you note. I think it went really well. My parents are telling me to send the thank you note via postal mail but I have heard that an email is “good enough”. What do you think?

First and foremost, “good enough” should not be the attitude we shoot for in an interview situation. Good enough is not the attitude that lands a job offer. That being said, I hear this question on a regular basis and understand the dilemma all too well.

“Do I send a personal handwritten thank you note or can I just pop the hiring manager a quick email?”

Not too long ago, it was commonplace for me to receive a thank you note after 90% of job interviews via the postal mail. Sometimes the letters were presented in a business format and sometimes they were handwritten. Over time that percentage has gone down steadily.

Now, I only receive thank you notes from about 30% of the candidates I interview and network with. Of this 30%, I would estimate that about 20% of these are sent via the postal mail. So if I interview 100 candidates, I might receive 30 thank you messages. Of these thirty, 24 will be emails and 6 of them will arrive via postal mail.

Lesson 1: Whether you opt for email or the postal (snail) mail, it is pretty easy to stick out in a crowd of job candidates by just having the courtesy to send a thank you note because so few candidates actually follow-up. 

To carry on the big data theme, of the 30 thank you messages I receive, I estimate that 50% of these are no more than 2 sentences in length. “Thank you for your time, I really appreciated learning more about the role.” Wow, thanks a lot. I can see you put a lot of thought into your thank you note. I can assure you that this is not what our sales team would send our potential clients after an introductory meeting.

Lesson 2: If you send a thank you, it is very easy to stick out by sending a thoughtful message that reminds the reader how and why your skill set and experience matches the job requirements. I didn’t say your work ethic, your timeliness or reminding the reader how you both attended the same alma mater. Hint: I said skill set and experience. For more info on the specifics of a thank you message, see this post. 

Back to the question at hand: Email or handwritten thank you note?

I will provide the pro’s and cons of each and my conclusion at the end. 

Email Pros:

  • Emails can be quick and easy and there is the word spell feature. There really isn’t a reason we cannot send an email. This email costs nothing and if you don’t have a computer they are available at most public libraries.
  • The beauty of email is that it can be very quick. Email can be sent and arrive instantaneously.
  • Email can be formatted to appear like a business letter. We can use bullet points and it can appear to be just like a typewritten business letter.
  • An email will be legible. Regardless of your chicken scratch, you can at least appear to be professional.

Hand Written Thank You Note Pros:

  • Handwritten notes do indicate that the candidate cares and can suggest a personal connection was made. I will be honest, it is hard not to feel warm and fuzzy when I receive a handwritten card.
  • The beauty of the handwritten note is that it says “you care”. We spent time writing the note, money (on stationary and stamp) and more time to find a mailbox. In this age, finding a mailbox is a feat in and of itself and shows dedication.

Email Con’s:

  • The potential downside of a thank you email is that it can appear to be cold and thoughtless. But this is only the case when I receive the short 1 or 2 sentence “Thanks for taking the time to talk about Acme Publishing this afternoon, I really like what you guys are doing” attitude. A well thought out email can convey gratitude and reinforce why we are the right candidate for the job.

Hand Written Thank You Note Con’s:

  • It boggles my mind when I receive a handwritten note with misspellings or notes that are barely legible. These folks either do not proofread their work or don’t realize potential customers won’t be able to read their notes. Both of these are sure-fire ways to be declined. If we know we have poor handwriting, email baby, email.


As much as I love the handwritten note and all of its symbolic meaning, I believe that the email is a more effective way of conveying thanks. Emails arrive instantaneously. If we interviewed with the hiring manager in the morning, the email can be in the hiring managers inbox by the afternoon. Snail mail can take up to 3 days and the recruiter could have taken any number of actions in those three days:

  • Received strong thank you emails from other candidates, making the handwritten note look like a no-show.
  • Been pressured by the hiring manager to speed up the process. The decision can be made while our handwritten note is in the post office.

Very few of us have presentable handwriting anymore. Schools don’t teach the artful skill of penmanship anymore. Even architects are using CAD systems these days and these professionals always had the best handwriting. If a hiring manager or recruiter receives your thoughtful email with business reasons as to why you should be in the position, they are not going to say to themselves “This dumbass didn’t write me a handwritten card, he actually had the audacity to email me a professional and well-written thank you note. I need to decline this candidate. Recruiter, get me someone who wrote me a handwritten card!!!” Of course, if you applied for a position at Hallmark Cards, then all bets are off.

See you at the after party,

nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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  • Email hands down, same day of interview or next day at the latest, pointing out what they thought was cool, an idea or article link, clarifications if they think they flubbed an answer or were too vague (we’ve all babbled before), and if they have any immediate job-related questions. And it should be addressed to everyone they met with (or ask the recruiter to forward it to the hiring team)!

    Written thank you notes? After the interviews are complete where it’s no longer time sensitive. Bonus points for those who send them a) after accepting the job offer, or b) after getting turned down but showing they are both gracious and would love to be considered for future roles. Thanking both the recruiter AND hiring manager in these cases are important.

    • Brian S. Hill

      If the recruiter calls without sending an email first, then what? How do you send a thank you if you don’t have any info? Asking for the info takes the elemeent of surprise away when it comes to this.

      • Brian, thanks for checking out the site. Try looking him or her contact info on LinkedIn. There is usually a way to contact via LinkedIn and some folks leave their contact info including email and phone number. Hope this helps and I wish you luck. You can also just call the front desk and say you just interviewed and didn’t get the contact info and want to send a thank you follow up. Since company emails are usually able to be figured out because of format, front desk will sometimes give out the contact info. Your worst case scenario is you send a note via the postal mail. Good luck! HRN