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Why Manners Count in the Job Search

With casual dress codes, increased flexibility, and remote workers, most businesses are less traditional than they once were. Yet, according to a survey from staffing firm Accountemps, one job search practice that maintains its importance is the thank-you note.

When making a decision about who to hire, eighty percent of human resources (HR) managers state that they take thank-you messages into account. Unfortunately, the survey found that only 24 percent of applicants sent thank-you messages, down from 51 percent in 2007.  HR managers were asked, "When it comes to making a hiring decision, how helpful is it when a promising job candidate sends you a thank-you message following his or her job interview?" Their responses:

Very helpful 22%
Somewhat helpful 58%
Not very helpful 12%
Not helpful at all 8%
Total 100%

HR managers say the most suitable methods of following up after an interview are email (94 percent) and a handwritten note (86 percent).

"Civility counts when looking for a job," said Michael Steinitz, executive director for Accountemps. "Acknowledging a hiring manager for the time he or she has given you demonstrates your enthusiasm, professionalism and attention to detail. With so few job seekers writing thank-you notes, a well-crafted message can help you stand out from other candidates." Steinitz added, "Those who forego thank-you notes may be missing out on a prime opportunity to leave a good impression, especially if competition for the position is tight."

Accountemps provides the following do's and don'ts for giving thanks:

  1. Do add value. Instead of writing a generic note, customize the message by mentioning a skill that wasn't brought up during the interview or expounding on a topic that was discussed.
  2. Don't delay. Send a thank-you note within 24 hours. Some employers make hiring decisions shortly after the round of interviews is complete, and you don't want to risk sending your note after that window has closed.
  3. Do proofread. Sending a thank-you message can backfire if you go about it the wrong way. Typos and grammatical mistakes may come across as a lack of attention to detail. Take the time to review, revise and refine your thank-you note.
  4. Don't be pushy. If you don't hear from the employer within a week of the interview, it's appropriate to follow up with a phone call or another email. But do so in moderation. Persistence is laudable, but pestering can get you removed from the short list.