Post-interview thank you note: handwritten snail mail or email?
September 23, 2010 8:26 AM   Subscribe

What is the best way to send a post-interview thank you note?

Sending a handwritten note via snail mail seems a bit odd given that absolutely no other kind of business communication is done that way, but what do I know? Perhaps it varies by field; if so, in which field or in what situation is it a good thing to send a hand-written thank you note? My interview was in an academia/library/technology-related field, FWIW.
posted by agent99 to Work & Money (24 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
In this situation, I find snail mail the most, if not only, acceptable way to do this.

Here's why: Email is such an easy to use, two-way communication medium that a lot of people are trained that you must respond to it as correspondence. Because it is so immediate, it can feel pushy to some people to get an thank you email. I don't think this is right, but I know it to be true for some (based on co-workers to whom I've talked when asking them what my job-interviewing boyfriend should do) If they get an email, they feel obligated to craft a neutral "we'll be letting you applicants know soon" response, which should be no problem, but it's a problem that a physical thank you doesn't have.

Also, because snail mail is so rare, it shows that you're serious.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:34 AM on September 23, 2010 [3 favorites]

Is it that you are unsure of modern business etiquette, or is something preventing you from an email (like lack of email address)? Especially in a technology-related field, an email is appropriate. And faster. Just don't request a read receipt from the recipient.
posted by archimago at 8:35 AM on September 23, 2010

...snail mail seems a bit odd given that absolutely no other kind of business communication is done that way...

I totally disagree with that. Anything of significance is done via snail mail / FedEx / whatever.

In this situation, I find snail mail the most, if not only, acceptable way to do this.

I'll echo that.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 8:39 AM on September 23, 2010

archimago, I am familiar with the use of email, but it's the conflict between your advice and MCMikeNamara's right above yours (for example) that makes me ask the question.
posted by agent99 at 8:41 AM on September 23, 2010

The point isn't to show tech capability, but to show sincere interest and a personalized touch as well as to stand out among other applicants as memorable. You achieve this by using the postal service rather than email.
posted by jph at 8:43 AM on September 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

I lean toward email, simply for the immediacy factor. With snail mail, by the time to note gets to the intended person (and it may get tied up in mail room fodder), the hiring decision may already have been made, or someone else may have had a chance to leave a better impression. Emailing the thank you note allows you to remind the interviewer of your awesomeness, while you're still fresh in their minds.
posted by litnerd at 8:46 AM on September 23, 2010 [3 favorites]

I've always sent email thank you notes. I agree with litnerd - the immediacy is nice. I typically have sent them the day after the interview, or in the case of an early morning interview, possibly late that afternoon. I don't think a handwritten note is expected anymore.
posted by tryniti at 8:49 AM on September 23, 2010

The rule I've been taught is "within 24 hours" - and email is the only way to accomplish that. As for seeming pushy, well, if your interviewers are that fussy and don't like proactive applicants, you probably don't want to work there.
posted by jetsetlag at 8:50 AM on September 23, 2010

Snail mail is the best way to go. But what you do is write and mail the letter IMMEDIATELY after the interview, so they receive it the next day.
posted by hermitosis at 8:51 AM on September 23, 2010

Perhaps it depends on the industry -- I work for a web development group and management is hyperfanatical about responsiveness. The best candidates for us tend to send an email within a few hours of the interview to confirm their interest. For me, getting a handwritten thank you via the mail 2 days later would feel oddly formal and would make me wonder whether the candidate is a little old-fashioned. (I haven't seen a handwritten thank you after an interview in four years.)
posted by mochapickle at 9:18 AM on September 23, 2010

Send a Thank You note or email to the recruiter or HR person that you spoke to only - do not try to guess the emails of every other person you spoke to, demand them at the end of every interview, or ask a friend at the company to provide them. You can ask HR to forward specific comments or a solution/code someone asked you to polish up after the interviews. Anything else is not okay and probably against company policy or just socially inappropriate.
posted by meepmeow at 9:34 AM on September 23, 2010

It totally depends on the industry. If someone sent me a snail-mail thank you note for an interview, my first thought is, "Oh, how quaint."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:35 AM on September 23, 2010

I tend to favor snail-mail for the same reason MCMikeNamara does. I sent a round of thank-you cards to everyone present at my last interview. Not sure if it helped, but I start the new job on Monday :)

I think the slowness of mail could be an advantage of sorts -- perhaps if your card shows up a day or two later, that's a day or two later you might stay fresher in the mind of the interviewer?
posted by Jinkeez at 9:37 AM on September 23, 2010

The reason there's a dilemma about which way is best is because you can't know which way your recipient would prefer. My advice, therefore, is to choose whichever seems more comfortable to you.

The best process for snail mail is the one hermitosis described, and mochapickle's advice is great for email.
posted by ocherdraco at 9:44 AM on September 23, 2010

I'd be a bit squicked out if I got a post-interview snail mail. It'd seem a bit desperate. An email would be fine. It'd remind me about the candidate, and inform me that they've got good manners.
posted by seanyboy at 9:47 AM on September 23, 2010

Email. Everything else is too slow.

The ONLY thing that matters with a thank you note is whether you bothered to make one arrive before decisions are made. You think they go through the trouble of reviewing your qualifications and taking time out of their day to sit down with you and talk to ultimately make a decision based on paper thank yous over electronic ones? They don't. Email gets it to them before they make a decision and it saves you money.

Furthermore, everyone else is sending email thank you notes if they're sending them at all. That means their thank you notes are showing up while yours is traveling. You look worse by comparison every time that happens.
posted by oreofuchi at 10:02 AM on September 23, 2010

Did you have an all-day, on-campus interview? Search committees can be slow, especially if you know they haven't finished all the interviews yet. So there probably is time for a handwritten note, which, while not necessary, is always a nice touch and much appreciated by committee members.

I'd say send them to the head of the search committee, the committee members, and, if you really want the job, the admin folks you met with (who will probably be making the final decision anyway).

FWIW, during a recent search in my library, while discussing the merits of two candidates who were pretty similar in many ways, someone did actually say, "Candidate A sent thank you notes." It's a professional courtesy that many people don't do, and it can help.
posted by bluedaisy at 10:18 AM on September 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Having said all that... if you are concerned about the timeline and think the committee might be making a decision right away, go ahead and use email.
posted by bluedaisy at 10:18 AM on September 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

It took me a very long time to get the idea that a hand-written note might NOT be the best course of action after an interview. I can tell you, I've been on literally close to a hundred interviews over the last decade, and I've seen the shift even in that time, and early on in it.

E-mail is totally acceptable, and I would say preferable. Snail mail is slow, and doesn't automatically leave you with a "sent" copy, searchable later. As others have said: you can bet that all the other candidates will have sent an e-mail thank you, and yours coming on paper just means they don't get yours right after they see you. Here in DC, the switch really happened after the Anthrax business in 2001, when you could never be sure how long paper mail would take to not only get through the postal service, but through the internal security measures a lot of businesses/agencies had set up. There was at least a 2 week lag time, the last I heard for government offices.

As you leave the interview, always ask for cards from everyone you met with, and you'll have their e-mail addresses. (if you forget, you can always call an AA afterwards if you can't find the address online). I still hold to the 24 hour rule, but I know a lot of people who say that you have to send a thank-you same day to be effective. In fact, I know a large percentage of those folks have a thank-you at the ready going into the interview and send it immediately following the interview. Personally, I think coming in and seeing a "thank you" over your morning coffee the next day when you're relaxed, as an employer is probably nice.

I've been on the other side of the table too, and I can tell you I have *never* received a paper "thank you" for an interview. Though the gal who sent it by e-mail 5 min after the interview was a bit much. Be specific and reference actual conversation you had. That way, an employer knows you didn't just crap out a response that everyone gets and you had it loaded on your blackberry (or other smart-device)
posted by indiebass at 10:54 AM on September 23, 2010

send snail mail w/ a cup of coffee. sure to get noticed.
posted by UltraD at 11:29 AM on September 23, 2010

Send the thank-you note! Snail mail! Yes! To the person you met with.

It feels odd to us because most of us don't do that very often. But it's a great thing.

Anyway you won't get a definitive answer but many of us are pro handwritten notes, largely because it expresses by its nature such serious interest and thoughtfulness.

As for your "fields" question, I would definitely say: at colleges, newspapers, other media companies, libraries and other frequently word-based professions. Probably less so in IT.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 11:56 AM on September 23, 2010

ok, having done a ton of interviews and having gone to a school where learning how to do a good interview was a skill that was ingrained into our skull- send an e-mail, within 24 hours. If you want to be super super formal and proper, mention in the e-mail something like 'I have also sent a note by post' and then send the snail version as well, saying pretty much the exact same thing you said by e-mail. I have almost never added on the formal layer, but in situations where I felt the interviewer really liked any formal flourishes I did do this. But really, entirely unnecessary. Oddly enough- if you do send one- if you write it using a fountain pen some people actually notice. Also make sure the physical thank you note is appropriate- not too cheap quality, no glitter, just something standard and nice. Try parroting- mimic their level of formality. You're fine with just an e-mail.
posted by saraindc at 12:41 PM on September 23, 2010

i should add that my answer is probably best suited for a business interview...academia, I'd probably err on the side of doing the formal handwritten snail mail note as well.
posted by saraindc at 12:46 PM on September 23, 2010

I would often receive both from candidates I interviewed -- a short email later that same day, or possibly the next morning; followed by a snail mail thank you card within the next few days.

While I wouldn't judge a candidate poorly for sending one only by email, I always thought that the snail mail one was a nice touch.
posted by Kattiara17 at 10:00 AM on September 24, 2010

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