Why I’ve (Sort of) Changed my Opinion on Thank You Cards

A couple of years ago, I wrote a lengthy, expletive-laced tirade about my distaste for thank you cards. In retrospect, the post was arguably one of the worst I’ve ever written for this blog — or any blog I’ve written for over the past 13 or so years. If you’re the type of person that likes getting made at someone on the internet for no reason, feel free to read that post and get mad at me. Even with improvements to the post after I realized that it was hot garbage, it’s still one I cringe while reading.

The strange thing is that I don’t even fully disagree with the primary point I was attempting to make in the post itself. Thank you cards are, as a concept, pretty annoying. Recipients don’t really want them, the sender doesn’t want to put the time into writing it and going to the post office, and the post office isn’t making much money1If any at all. off of a simple card. In general, I still see the thank you card as a flawed and ultimately poor way to show gratitude.

Notice how I specifically called out the thank you card in the last paragraph. This is because I think there’s a far better way to show gratitude to someone who has done something for us — a way that should become the cultural standard for how we handle saying thank you. It’s a way that’s been right under our noses the whole time. I’m speaking, of course, about the thank you email.

I can practically hear my millennial brethren cringing at that last suggestion. The email, the phone call, and the voicemail are becoming antiquated methods of communication among millennials and younger. A former co-worker of mine once2In early 2017. said that they don’t call any co-worker back who leaves them a voicemail because “if they didn’t find it important enough to IM me, it must not be important”. Throwing aside my own disagreements with that philosophy, I get where the person was coming from. Social media has created the need for instantaneous interaction and communication. To provide a delay from that makes the communication seem less valued, at least in part.

The problem with that logic, however, is that it can often take time, as well as careful wording, to show gratitude that seems genuine. That’s not to say you can’t thank someone with a quick “thanks” in passing. But since we live in an interconnected world where most interactions are not occurring face-to-face, most moments where we’re showing how grateful we are for someone’s help are conducted remotely and in real time. So how then do we set ourselves apart from everyone else also looking to show their thanks? Slow things down.

I’ve been on the job hunt for a little while now3As I mentioned in last week’s post, I tend to write these posts well in advance. This post, like the last one, was written in October. That said, I felt like gratitude and saying thank you was a good topic to discuss on Christmas Day., meaning I’ve filled out copious amounts of applications, received more rejection emails than I’d care to admit, and have attended a small handful of interviews. One thing I’ve tried my hardest to do is to write the recruiter, interviewer, or whomever I have contact information for a thank you email after every interview I have. I realize it’s small and, to this point, has meant very little in my job search. That said, I’ve found that my interactions with the hiring staff at the companies I’ve interacted with have been better than any I’ve experienced before.

I recognize it’s not a very deep thought to say “hey…you should be sending a thank you email to the people who interview you, even if you don’t get a job with them”. It’s pretty much interviewing 101. But at the same point in time, I don’t see people doing it that often — both from my own experiences as an interviewer, as well as from what I’ve heard being an interviewee myself. Therefore, in this one case, I think the concept of a thank you card must become more common, even if the literal thank you card itself is left in the sands of time for it.

Why I’ve (Sort of) Changed my Opinion on Thank You Cards

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4 thoughts on “Why I’ve (Sort of) Changed my Opinion on Thank You Cards

  1. I used to be a Store Manager at GameStop. I had my Assistant Manager call some people in for an interview and pass the good ones on to me to call back. It was good experience for him and allowed me to save some time and get a valuable opinion. One guy did not make his list of people to call back, but sent a thank you card to him to the store. I saw him open it and asked who it was. He couldn’t remember very much about him, but I called him for a follow up interview with the people who made the list anyway.

    I wasn’t even thinking that it was good practice or anything. It just brought that person back up in our minds for discussion. I definitely think you should send them!

    1. I’m not a big fan of the literal thank you card still, though I do think the sentiment is valuable. Someone has taken time out of their workday to consider you for employment at their company. Even if you don’t get the job, thanking someone for their time just seems like the right thing to do.

  2. I have to agree that there are definitely instances where a thank you is definitely proper etiquette, and in those, a thank-you email to me would suffice. I always email back interviewers (the exception being one job I realized I really, really didn’t want).

    I know I said it on the original post, but I feel like thank-you cards are a total waste of time. I always feel guilty throwing them out, but I literally have no use for keeping them.

    1. Yeah, I’m with you on the throwing the cards out. I do the same thing with birthday cards for the most part. I mean, the sentiment is great. But it’s a waste of paper.

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