The Handwritten Thank-You Note After an Interview: Necessary or Passé?


thank you letter jobWe’ve been wondering: In our increasingly digital world, have thank-you notes—once a post-interview mainstay—gone the way of encyclopedias and the Yellow Pages?

On one hand, a handwritten note may signal to your interviewer that you’re serious about the position and went the extra mile with a personal touch.

But what if it arrives too late—or the hiring manager finds it outdated?

We asked five people with serious career chops—and discovered the answer isn’t so simple: While some professions have fully transitioned into the digital realm of emailed follow-ups, handwritten notes are still alive and well in others.

Curious which camp your industry falls into? Here’s what recruiting, etiquette and HR professionals had to say on the matter.

Kathy Harris: “The handwritten thank-you note has gone the way of the horse and carriage.”

Managing Director at Harris Allied, an executive search firm specializing in the technology industry

If you’re interviewing for a high-paced tech job, Harris warns against sending a “throwback” card. “I’ve been working in this industry for 16 years and haven’t seen a single handwritten note,” she says. “Tech people embrace email; it’s part of the protocol. If you send a card, you risk appearing irrelevant.”

Plus, the snail-like pace of mail could cost you the job: “The turnaround time is quick enough that by the time you write the card, drop it in the mailbox and it arrives a few days later, the manager has likely already made a hiring decision,” Harris says.

But even though you can toss the notepad, don’t underestimate the importance of following up. According to Harris, if a hiring decision comes down to two equal candidates, a strong thank-you email can be the tipping point. “A well-written and thoughtful email demonstrates your ability to follow through and pay attention, and reinforces your interest in the position,” Harris says.

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She suggests emailing everyone who was part of your interview process within one business day. (Gather business cards during the interview so you have their contact information.) And remember: “It shouldn’t be boiler plate,” Harris stresses. “It should sound like your genuine voice and reflect your personal experience.”

  • KateSF

    The last time I applied for a job, I sent a handwritten thank you card after my 2nd interview. When the interviewer called me back for a 3rd interview, she thanked me for the card and was really touched by it. (I had still sent an email as well, just to be clear that I was interested, and because I feared the card would take too long in the mail). I ended up being offered the job, but ultimately I turned it down for various reasons. I would recommend writing a note, if it makes sense for your industry. You could even have the card ready to go in your car/purse/briefcase so that as soon as you’re done with the interview, you can write it and get it in the mail that same day. But an email is still necessary. It seems redundant to say thank you twice, but if you’re serious about the position, it’s a great touch to make you stand out.

    • ABPryor

      Agreed Kate.

    • 9flabby8

      KateSF Your thoughts are adult, civil, and warrant our full attention. Well said. For the rest of us, let’s not be too quick to RIP the well crafted thank-you note that does NOT start with the words “thank-you” and are not cutesy and have no aroma. Okay? Okay!

  • ksgirl73

    This also assumes that the interviewer has slipped you their business card. I wouldn’t risk sending a card if I wasn’t positive about how the interviewer spelled their name.

    I’ve often wondered if an interviewer slipping you their business card is a test to see how interested you really are in the position. Or if they waiting to see if and how you will follow up.

  • ksgirl73

    I know, it feels a little forced, but I have had a few recruiters who didn’t select me at least give me a call and explain to me why they didn’t pick me. I think the thank you helped. Otherwise I doubt I would have heard anything.