When competing for a job, it can be hard to find a way to set yourself apart. Chances are many of the applicants have similar career experience. When invited to an interview, a majority will most likely do some research beforehand, dress to impress, practice a good handshake, and show up on time. There is one thing, however, that only about 10% of interviewees do, and that is write a thank you note.

If you are polite enough to be reading this etiquette column, chances are you have already used the words “thank you” today. Expressing gratitude for even the smallest things makes other people feel appreciated. If that isn’t reason enough, besides giving you that warm fuzzy feeling, saying “thanks” can also give you a competitive edge in the business world. Here is that who, when, what, and how of thank you cards.

Who: Even in our politically correct world, no sane person is offended by the words “thank you”; so feel free to use them generously. In addition to your interviewer(s), send a thank you note to anyone at the company who helped you such as the receptionist or someone who recommended you for the position.

When: Thank you notes should be written shortly after you leave the interview and received by your potential employer within 1 to 2 days. If using email, do not send your thank you note too quickly, as it may seem like you didn’t put much thought into it.

What: In a few sentences, thank the recipient for his or her time and express your interest (or disinterest) in working for the company. Reiterate why you are the right one for the job, and say you look forward to hearing back soon.  If you forgot to ask any questions, include those as well. You may also attach your business card if you didn’t give one earlier.

How: While email is the quickest way, it is only ideal when the hiring decision is quick or when the company is high-tech. In all other cases, it is best to send a handwritten card. Because they aren’t nearly as common as emails, they are more memorable and show more effort. In addition, the recipient is likely to place it on his or her desk and will think of you every time he or she looks at it.

And there you have it, the easiest way to stand out in the job market! After your next interview, send a few thank you notes and soon you will be thanking yourself.

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