I am in mathematics on the job market.

How should I thank my interviewer?

Does an e-mail suffice, a verbal thanks, or should I mail a handwritten note?

Although I do love writing handwritten notes expressing thanks to my family and friends, I don't want to come off as looking for favors. I am also not sure what is customary in mathematics.

  • I don't think you can honestly go wrong with handwritten (so long as you keep the content appropriate). It's still the gold standard. – tonysdg Nov 24 '15 at 1:21
  • @tonysdg It's a bit quaint, no? Do you not think that the receipt of a handwritten note would surprise the interviewer? This surprise could be positive or negative. An email would seem more standard to me, but, then again, I'm not at all well-positioned to answer. – Shane Nov 24 '15 at 1:23
  • @tonysdg Do you think mailing it is best, or dropping it off in person (if possible)? – Felix Y. Nov 24 '15 at 1:24
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    My last time searching for jobs, I e-mailed the department head to say thanks, and I actually sent the secretary a handwritten note in the mail because I thought her organization and helpfulness during my interview was exceptional. I actually got offered that job. – Felix Y. Nov 24 '15 at 1:26
  • @Shane: I'm a bit old-fashioned, perhaps, and I'm probably not old/experienced enough to be saying with any authority that it won't be taken negatively. But I guess I'd be surprised if it was taken negatively - at worst, I feel that it would be, as you said, quaint and then forgotten. – tonysdg Nov 24 '15 at 1:26

Honestly, in this and at least one other question you are worrying about things that no one on the employer's side will care about in the least. You do not need to send a thank-you letter to any of your interviewers. If you feel like you made a personal connection with a specific faculty member, you certainly may write an email (or a letter, or whatever...) saying that you enjoyed meeting them / look forward to seeing them again / whatever. Or not: we won't care either way.

Math departments are not evaluating candidates for their general etiquette. Please remember that:

(i) We are drawing from a worldwide applicant pool, and there is no such thing as worldwide academic etiquette. We expect that once someone is hired they'll learn the local ropes.

(ii) Mathematicians have a reputation for being a bit eccentric / weird / exhibiting non-standard social behaviors. Probably this is somewhat exaggerated, but the truth is that math departments are a great haven for those whose professional competence vastly exceeds their social skills. If you are not too weird, it should not be a problem. Likability is, obviously, a positive, but we are really not running a popularity contest: the gentleman who was pretty quiet at lunch but gave a nice clear talk and has one more strong paper is going to get hired over the life of the party whose talk was a bit fuzzy and whose CV is not quite as strong.

The above is centered on research departments. Liberal arts colleges value collegiality more, but they too will make a distinction between someone who is simply socially dexterous versus someone who knows what to do in the very specific, content-related interactions they will have with students. They will not assume that because someone is well-mannered they will be good with students (or inversely): there are people whom I find painfully awkward who are wonderful with students, and students are surprisingly good at seeing the difference here as well.

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  • we are really not running a popularity contest... although academia doesn't always look that way.. – P.Windridge Dec 12 '15 at 21:30

I'd like to second @Shane's point [that it would seem a bit quaint]. Think of it from your interviewer's perspective: If you had a number of people to interview, besides getting your regular work done, you'd probably be happy if any correspondence was conducted through standardized channels. All of the faculty members I've known communicated via e-mail as first and last resorts.

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