Thank-you Notes: Handwritten or Emailed?

For those of you who regularly check our blog, you may remember a March post from Anne Buchanan of Buchanan Public Relations, our PRGN partner in Philadelphia, entitled Why You Will Never Get Hired at Our PR Firm, which offered a real-life example of how jobs can be won and lost because of common courtesy – or lack thereof.

Here at Landis Communications Inc., following up with thank-you notes is an issue near and dear to our hearts. So this week, we are proud to post Anne Buchanan’s follow up article about whether thank-you notes should be handwritten or emailed.

Thank-you Notes: Handwritten or Emailed?

Our recent blog post – Why You Will Never Get Hired At Our PR Firm, a lament on the lack of gratitude expressed by many in the job market – spawned a host of thoughtful replies from both employers and jobseekers alike.

One of the interesting questions that several job hunters asked was: Does it matter if a thank-you note is handwritten or emailed?

Great question. I do have a point of view on this, but before I share my thoughts, let me give you some feedback from others.

We asked our friends and clients at Salveson Stetson Group, a Philadelphia retained executive search firm that specializes in senior-level searches. I was particularly interested in hearing their thoughts, given that they spend every day interviewing and assessing candidates for corporate and non-profit clients who have hired them to fill leadership openings.

Founder and Principal Sally Stetson finds handwritten notes more memorable. “I receive so few handwritten notes that I actually read them and remember that they reconnected with me. I have also been impressed when someone sends a note on a unique, high quality note card.”

Sally’s partner at Salveson Stetson Group, John Touey, concurred: “I always read handwritten notes because I get them so rarely.”

But he had an interesting caveat: “I don’t think it would help if you were a techie or a social media type.”

Which brings us to an important point: The medium through which you communicate your thanks following an interview should be appropriate to the industry in which you are job-hunting. Don’t send a handwritten note on a flowery note card if you’re looking for a job in engineering.

When I asked others in our office which type of thank-you note registered the most strongly with them, the majority said handwritten.

But our office manager, who is usually the first to open those notes, offered this comment: “Many younger adults never learned the basics of handwriting; a mailed thank-you note probably doesn’t do you any favors if your handwriting is poor.” And for those who struggle with spelling, email provides the added reassurance of spell check.

I do a lot of interviewing (both formal and informational) of candidates hoping to secure a job in the public relations field. I may be the one holdout here, but I have a very slight bias toward emailed thank-you notes.

Why? The immediacy of the medium is very powerful. Whenever we leave a new business meeting, I try to have a thank-you note emailed to the prospect within 24 hours. I am similarly impressed when a candidate who has met with us follows up within a day or two, with an impressive thank-you note. She has been able to recreate the positive meeting – and remind me why I liked her so much – by capitalizing on the immediacy of email.

At the end of the day, though, it matters less which vehicle you use to send your thank-you note than it does that you thank your interviewer for meeting with you.

What do you think? Any thank-you notes or gestures that made an impression on you?

Post your comments and thoughts below and email us at [email protected] and [email protected].

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4 Comments

  1. Jordana Reply

    Thanks Anne! Great bottom line here: either way you write them, thank you’s are a definite must!

  2. David Landis Reply

    Anne – I wholeheartedly agree. Sometimes time is of the essence. . .and sometimes you want to “pack a punch” and make a big impression. So think carefully about which way to send the thank you – but ALWAYS send one! Thanks again for contributing. Cheers, David

  3. Donna Reply

    I used to send the handwritten notes, but a career coach I worked with recommended email because of the immediacy factor. The other option would be to drop off a handwritten note to the person’s office the day following the interview, if that’s possible, which could make a lasting impression. At any rate, you must send a note of thanks, and not just to the key decision maker but to every single person with whom you interviewed (and make sure to ask for his/her business card if one is not offered to you!)

  4. Scott Hanson, APR, Fellow PRSA Reply

    I have given in to accepting an e-mail thank you if I receive it the same day as acceptable. I do still think a hand-written note has more impact. It probably won’t be long before we start getting thank-you texts!