Thank you cards: Should you respond?

We all know that thank you cards are surrounded by etiquette rules that dictate when they should be sent, what they should say and even how they should be written (by hand, of course). However, there are far fewer rules when it comes to responding to thank you cards. When someone says an in-person thank you, it’s generally regarded as good manners to respond by saying “you’re welcome,” but what should you do if you receive a thank you note in the mail or in your email inbox? Take a look at these guidelines for responding to personal and business thank you cards:

From a personal event
There are a number of personal events that generally call for thank you cards, including weddings, graduations, baby showers, birthdays and more. You’ll likely receive these thank you cards after attending the event or bringing or sending a gift. Any formal response to this type of thank you card really isn’t necessary – hosts of weddings or showers send so many thank yous after these events, that they won’t expect a response. If you see them in person soon after receiving the card, feel free to mention their kind words and that you’re so glad they enjoyed your gift. Sending a formal response card or email may result in a never-ending loop of thank yous (“No, thank you,” “No, no, thank you!”).

From an interviewee
Another time when thank you cards are all but mandatory is after a job interview. They’re considered good manners and a great way to sell yourself, whether the note is emailed or written on personalized stationery and mailed. Responses to these thank yous are a little different. Often, job candidates respond with a simple show of gratitude and some supplemental information, but in many cases, interviewees also ask specific questions about the next steps in the hiring process or to clarify a certain aspect of the job. In general, if you receive a post-interview thank you card or email, a quick response is kind but not absolutely necessary. For notes that have specific questions, you may want to follow up.

From a colleague
If you’ve helped someone find a job or gain a great networking opportunity, it’s not mandatory they send a thank you note, but don’t be surprised if they do. In that case, a response by email (or even via LinkedIn) is a good idea, especially if you hope to work with them in the future. Even just a short note like this is kind and manageable: “You’re welcome – it was no problem to send an email to John Smith. Let me know if there’s anything else I can do to help you out!”

From a boss
Praise from a boss feels great, so don’t be afraid to tell him or her you appreciate the acknowledgment. Respond using the same method they used (e.g., in person, email or written note), and make sure he or she knows you’ve gotten the message and that you’re glad your work was satisfactory. This sends a positive message that you care about your job and take pride in the work you do.