At The George Washington University, we are charged with fulfilling General Washington’s vision of educating and preparing future leaders in our nation’s capital. Many people do not know that George Washington, sometime before the age of 16, transcribed the Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior In Company and Conversation: A Book of Etiquette. He had impeccable manners and committed these 101 rules to memory at a very early age. If George was alive today, he might add another rule to his Book of Etiquette; writing thank you notes.

A few years ago, I was presenting to a class of students on interviewing skills. I was a recruiter at the time and the students knew I could help them find new job opportunities. Therefore, I wanted to conduct an experiment to see how many students would write thank you cards if asked to do so. After my workshop was completed, I asked the thirty students to write and mail me a hand-written thank you card. To my surprise, after receiving only three thank you cards, I pondered if the statistics in my experiment were comparable to people writing thank you notes after they interview for jobs. After years of conducting thousands of interviews and hiring hundreds of people, the statistics in my initial experiment were indeed accurate. Less than ten percent of candidates that interview with hiring managers write thank you cards.

In today’s economic times, job seekers are looking for ways to make themselves stand out amongst a sea of applicants. Writing thank you notes reflect courteousness, ability to follow-up, genuine appreciation, and a spirit of going above and beyond. These are the exactly the skills that employers want when hiring new employees.

When interviewing for a new position, hand write a thank you card to the people you interviewed with. It goes a long way. You do not have to say anything elaborate. Thank you for the time you had given me on Wednesday to learn about [insert position title] and [insert company or school]. I value your time and just wanted to say thanks. Have a great day. Chris Landino

Here are some of the do’s and don’ts of thank you notes.

1) People tend to keep or display the thank you cards they receive from people.

2) Do not email a thank you message. Most people get over 100 emails a day. If an email is not important to someone’s daily tasks, these emails do not get read or are discarded quickly. It is impersonal and does not help you stand out amongst the other candidates applying for the job that you want.

3) Do not attempt to resell yourself for the position. A simple courteous thank you is all that is needed.

4) Keep the thank you card itself, plain. Do not use crazy colors or designs. Keep it simple

5) Do not wait to send it. Put the thank you card in the mail after your interview, the same day.

6) Hand-write the thank you card in blue ink. It looks more authentic in blue ink.

7) Write one for each person you meet in your interview.

Students ask me all the time, how does one stand out among the 200 other applications for every job opening? Simply put, write a hand written thank you note. If it is down to two candidates, both being of equal skills and equal fit, the thank you card could be the only thing that puts you over the top with a new job. Write a hand written thank you card. Less than ten percent of job applicants do. George Washington would be proud.

For more insight into Thank You Cards, read the April 4th article in the New York Times.