Job search etiquette is clear on one thing: Every interview should be followed promptly by a thank you note.
But should your interview thank you come in the form of a typed email or handwritten letter? That’s where things get a bit nebulous.
“The most important thing is not whether you follow up with email or handwritten paper, but whether you follow up at all,” says April Masini, relationship and etiquette expert for AskApril.com. “Missing that opportunity is more of a problem than choosing the medium is.”
That said, there are advantages and disadvantages to both. Let these criteria be your guide.
When to write an email
Assuming that the company is looking to hire quickly, it’s best to send your thank you by email.
“Typically the interviewer or interview team makes its hiring decision within 48 hours after the last candidate interviews,” says Elaine Krehmeyer, founder of Atlanta-based Career Revelations and a former investment banking training program director. “In most cases, this is not enough time to receive a handwritten thank you note in the mail.”
If you’re not sure when the hiring team will make a decision, send an email in the evening of the same day you interview, after 5 p.m.
“This is a second bite at the apple, and by sending the note after working hours you are intimating that you go the extra mile no matter what,” says Al Smith, author of HIRED! Paths to Employment in the Social Media Era.
Krehmeyer suggests using a desktop or laptop to send the email instead of a smartphone or other device. “There is more room for error with these devices and it can appear that little thought was put into the note.”
When to write a handwritten letter
If you’re applying for a slower-paced job or you’re in a small town, a handwritten letter is more appropriate, Masini says.
Additionally, if you know the company won’t be making a decision for at least a week, you can send a letter by snail mail. A note of thanks sent via mail is an excellent way to make a positive impression days after the interview, Smith says.
One way to send a handwritten letter and get it to the person quickly is to write it on the spot and have it hand-delivered.
“A handwritten thank you left immediately after the interview can differentiate one candidate from the others,” Smith says. “If the interview is at an office, sit in the waiting room to complete an already started thank you note—some of the content can be written in advance—personalize it then ask the receptionist to hand it to the interviewer.”
Additionally, if you’ve already sent an email, you might follow up with a handwritten note to underscore your interest in the position. This can help you differentiate yourself from other candidates.
No matter how you decide to thank your interviewer, don’t forget to send a note that’s tailored to the conversation and sums up the value you’d bring, Krehmeyer advises: “The thank you note is another opportunity to personalize your interview and highlight the best parts of your conversation.”