Thank you email or hand written note? A recruiter explains which one is more effective

Thank you card

Is the thank you card the way to go?

Email or handwritten note?

Last week we blogged about whether or not you should send a thank you note after a job interview. You can read about the effect a well-written thank you note can have here.  Just as importantly, you can read about the impression candidates leave when they don’t take the time to say “thank you” for talking about an opportunity.

One of the most asked questions we hear when we give talks to candidates over 40 is whether an email or a handwritten note is more effective. For the record, we don’t hear this question from candidates early in their careers. We also rarely receive thank you notes from this generation. If you haven’t sent a thank you note after a job interview read the above-linked post.

Today we answer the popular question, email or handwritten note?

Email Pros

  • Emails are quick and easy. In addition, there is the word spell feature. There really isn’t a reason we cannot send an email. Thank You emails cost us nothing. If you don’t have a computer, access is available at most public libraries.
  • The beauty of email is that it can be very quick. Email can be sent and arrive instantaneously. Preferably the day of the interview.
  • Email can be formatted to appear like a business letter. Whether your letter is an attachment or composed within the body of the email business letter, we can format the message and it can be presented in the same fashion as a formal business letter. Career Tracker’s Thank You Templates take the guesswork out of the process.
  • An email will be legible. If you are not blessed with easy to read handwriting, an email will remove the guesswork and ensure your message is legible.

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 hand-written card.
  • The beauty about the hand-written 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. This move shows dedication. The assumption is that candidates would not go through all this effort if they were not sincerely interested in the position or working with the interviewer.

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 the reader receives the short 1 or 2 sentences. We have received 100’s of emails that read, “Thanks for taking the time to talk about Acme Publishing this afternoon, I really like what you guys are doing.” The good intentions are there, but single sentence emails don’t convey the right attitude. Career Trackers templates will communicate that you put some thought into the letter and at the same time reinforce why you are the right candidate for the job.

Hand Written Thank You Note Con’s

  • It boggles my mind when I receive a hand-written note with misspellings or notes that are barely legible. These candidates 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 hand-written note and all its symbolic meaning, we believe that email is a most 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 manager’s 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. A few examples are listed below that explain why email is the stronger move.

  • 3 candidates interview on the same day. Hiring manager receives strong thank you emails from 1 candidate, making the 2 hand-written note look like a no-show.
  • If the hiring manager feels pressure to make a hire by outside forces, time is of the essence. While a candidate is putting together their handwritten note and asking USPS for help, time is tick-tocking. Decisions can be made while our hand-written note is in the post office.

Is your handwriting legible?

Very few of us have presentable handwriting any more. Schools don’t teach the artful skill of penmanship. Architects and engineers were always known for having the best handwriting. The use of CAD systems has made the need for handwriting non-existent. 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 think,

“This dumbass didn’t write me a hand-written 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 hand-written card!!!”

Of course, if you applied for a position at Hallmark Cards, then all bets are off.

Key Takeaway: The thank you email after the job interview can make or break your career. An email will arrive sooner than a handwritten note and keep the momentum moving forward just as effectively. Send the email! 

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