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.
- 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.
- 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”.