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It is generally considered good etiquette to send a note of appreciation after an interview. And traditionally I have usually sent this note on paper.

In contemporary western culture is an email an acceptable format for a "thank you" note?

  • I believe in this day and age, an email is perfectly acceptable. – Hammo Aug 29 '13 at 6:06
  • Thank you to everyone that responded. I upvoted all serious answers that reflected some thought, and so far all of them have. I intended this question primarily as an issue of etiquette but got back much more than that in the answers. I knew I could count on Joe for a good answer but all of them had something to offer. – Bernard Dy Aug 31 '13 at 11:58
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In contemporary western culture is an email an acceptable format for a "thank you" note?

Yes, in contemporary western culture, an email is acceptable. The majority of people who even bother to send thanks at all use email. But, do you really want to settle for acceptable, when you could do better?

I've interviewed a lot of candidates over the years, and I've received a lot of thank you notes. The ones that really stand out were hand-written on note paper, and it was clear that the writer had put some real thought into them. Often they thanked me, but they also emphasized details that had come up during the interview which they wanted to expand on. The best candidates sent an email immediately with quick thanks, then also followed up with a longer, paper thank you note.

Send emails if you want to meet minimum acceptability standards. Do better if you want to stand out from the crowd.

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If the interview process has been handled electronically then definitely send an email. If the application/resume was done via a website, the initial screen by phone, and the full interview by Skype and screen camera your only contact has been via computer and phone.

Depending on the job the mailing address portion of their contact info for each employee is not the best way to reach them. Sometimes if I am working at a customer site, I only make it back to the company site every few months. Mailing a letter to my corporate office building will result in either it sitting in box until my next visit the mail room, or having them put it in another package and mailing it to my home. Mailing it to the customer site will rarely result in it getting to me.

If you expect any acknowledgement from the people that interviewed you, email is probably the best way to go.

Of course you will have to get the email address of those you want to contact. Other than the HR POC, and maybe one other person in the interview I have never known anything besides names for the people who have interviewed me. If the interview invite was by email, then I might be able to pull some names from the email. If I am lucky I will get one or two cards, but that doesn't always happen.

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Is this modern day nearly everyone is on Email. Sending an Email is by sure the best way to show a few key things:

  • You can send it the day of your interview to show just how eager you are.
  • If the interviewer ever searches for your name in their email, the note will pop up and remind them that you followed up.
  • You can easily tailor it to the vibe of the interview. It can be as casual or as formal as you decide.
  • The interviewer might drop you a line back. The email will be open on their computer, and there's a larger chance they'll respond, or ask you a follow-up question.

There are some slight issues with handwritten letters that may hinder the chances of you getting a second look by your potential future employer:

  • There's a delay. I've always believed in following up with a thank you note which they would have in less than 24 hours after the interview. This way you're still fresh in the interviewer's mind.
  • The letter might never get to your interviewer. It could get lost in the mail which does happen occasionally even these days. The secretary could throw it out, it could end up in a pile of envelopes that don't get opened for months.
  • The chances of the interviewer writing back to you are less. The letter feels more final.

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