If there is one thing our Southern mamas taught us, it’s the importance of manners. More than likely, somewhere between “yes ma’am,” “no ma’am,” “please,” and “thank you,” the art of the thank you note was also drilled into our brains.

Fast forward to your professional life in 2017 and the protocol on thank you notes has probably somewhat blurred. Yes, in a perfect world you would have time to write personalized thank you notes to all your customers, prospective employers, and others. On the other hand, the world is moving quickly, and we have a wonderful tool called email. So, what’s best practice when it comes to professional thank yous?


A personalized thank-you note is almost always preferable and more impressive than an email. However, there are definitely situations when a thank you note is simply not practical. When a potential employer is making a decision quickly regarding a position you interviewed for, you want to let them know immediately how appreciative you are of their time. When there is an expiration date on your gesture making the intended impression, opt for the thank you email.


An email is convenient when you’re worried about timing, but it also has some other benefits. For instance, you aren’t dependent upon the post office. Mail gets lost, damaged, or delayed frequently. When sending an email, you’ll never have to second guess if the email arrived.

Additionally, replying to your email is incredibly easy for the person on the other end. So, when you email a potential employer telling them thank you, they more than likely will respond with valuable information such as “we’ll make our decision by the end of the week”.


Before you decide between a thank you note and a thank you email, think about the company or person you’re dealing with. Some companies and professionals are very traditional (i.e. partner in a law firm) and may even expect a thank you note. Others (i.e. younger professionals) probably wouldn’t think twice about a thank you email.


Typing out an email undoubtedly seems so easy. With our crazy schedules, we tend to default to this method because we’ve somehow made ourselves believe writing a thank you letter would take way too much time. A thank you note does not have to be lengthy to leave an impression. Thanking them for their time, or business, or referral, or any other professional courtesy only needs to take three or four sentences. The only extra effort is really just walking to the mailbox.

Like many issues in today’s professional world, you have to look at each situation separately. Use your best judgment based on the information mentioned earlier. One last thing to consider when deciding: handwritten notes in today’s busy world have become so rare. Therefore, sending one almost always catches the other person by surprise and leaves a good impression. Isn’t leaving an impression exactly what we’re all trying to accomplish in our climb to the top?