The What, When, and How of Thank-You Notes

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The handwritten thank-you note should not make an appearance only for Christmas presents and on wedding days. In fact, thank-you notes are an integral part of business protocol – and of standing out from the crowd when it comes to good business practice.

An expression of due gratitude is appreciated, whether it takes the form of an in-person thanks, a call on the phone or an email. However, even in the digital age, do not dismiss the classic handwritten note: this small gesture can go a long way in a business context.


In which contexts should you write a thank-you note, and when should you do it?

After an interview

  • Thank-you notes are a must after interviews. Though you will express thanks in person immediately following the interview, always follow up with a handwritten note to each member of the interview team – not simply a blanket thank-you note for the whole panel.
  • A thank-you email shortly after the interview is acceptable, though it is still necessary to follow up with a handwritten note even after an email. Some choose to email thanks on the same day of the interview while your conversation is still present in the reviewers’ minds, and won’t be compromised because of the necessary delays with sending a note in the mail.
  • Write and post the handwritten note on the same day of the interview, so that it arrives at the recipient’s office within 2-3 business days.

After a business lunch

  • Write a thank-you note after a business associate takes you out for a nice lunch, whether the reason is for a meeting, networking or otherwise.
  • Similar to the interview context, an in-person thanks after the meal is necessary but not enough. Or, as the Forbes Essential Guide to the Business Lunch advises, “A simple, ‘Thank you so much for a lovely lunch,’ will suffice, as you will be following up with a handwritten thank you note.”

Thanking clients for their business

  • After a particular deal, exchange or milestone, thank clients through a handwritten note for their business. Clients will appreciate being recognized for their business, and a valued client will more often be a consistent client.
  • Thank clients during the holiday season for their business throughout the year. This thank-you note may take the form of a holiday card and a gift as an extra thoughtful gesture.


What does an ideal business thank-you note look like?

  • In business, refrain from thank-you notes with comical designs or a lot of detail. Simple yet elegant cards made of white or ecru paper with no more than two to three colour variations are excellent standards. Professional thank-you cards can be either a flat card or a fold-over card.
  • For classic examples, see Crane & Co.’s elegant bordered flat card  or traditional fold-over. The inner lining of the envelopes match the print of the “Thank You” and details on the card. Have a box of 8 – 10 business thank you cards like these on hand, plus a nice ink pen, to have at the ready when a situation calls for thanks.


How do you write and address an effective thank-you note?

  • For a thank-you note after an interview, mention a topic that you discussed and that particularly interested you during the interview, such as, “I enjoyed hearing about the social media duties of the Programmer position and I am excited to learn more.” Alternatively, if you cite a topic you and your interviewer connected on, they will remember you better personally.
  • To address a thank-you note, on the outside of the card write the proper title of the recipient, e.g., Dr. Jane Smith or Ms. Roberta Jones. On the inside of the card, address the recipient how you would refer to him or her in person. If you are unsure, stay on the safe side and use a title and last name instead of a first name.

Thank You Note etiquette is an essential part of overall business etiquette. Click to learn more about how to develop business etiquette skills.


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