Dear Veteran Job Seeker: This Small Gesture Gets Big Results

Thank-you note
Thank-you note. (Adobe stock image)

A handwritten or typed thank-you, snail-mail note may seem like an archaic relic from a past age of job hunting, but in a world of digital noise, it will help you stand out. When done genuinely, a thank-you note can boost your career or job prospects and create stronger relationships with your peers, mentors and boss in the process.

Too bad three out of four job seekers don't bother sending a thank-you note after an interview, according to Accountemps' survey of human resources (HR) managers. The survey found that only 24% of HR managers receive thank-you notes from applicants. Further, only 24% of those thank-you notes are handwritten.

Everyone wants their work to be meaningful, and recognizing co-workers, a boss or mentors, past or present, are important to building long-term work relationships.

Thank-you notes make a difference to Dino Hernandez, president of Strategic Advancement Solutions Group LLC, a nonprofit fundraising consulting firm with clients in higher education and veterans charities.

"As a 23+-year career higher education fundraising professional, I have had many talented individuals interview with me for a variety of positions," Hernandez said. "The most memorable for me were the ones that took the extra steps to follow up with a formal thank-you note as well as check in with me during the active search process. Research has shown how important it is to thank people as it is a "'powerful act of civility,'" but I would add that it also shows a future employer emotional intelligence, attention to detail and the potential to be a contributing member of a team."

When writing a thank-you card, keep it simple. Write something like, "Hey, Mike, I really appreciate your mentorship. I learned a great deal from you, and your knowledge helped me get where I am today. I just wanted you to know that you made a difference. In particular, your mentorship on conflict resolution really helped me when I was promoted and started managing my own team. Thanks!"

Here are three situations when you should absolutely write a thank-you note.

1. The Post-Interview Thank You

If you're an active job seeker (or aspire to be one), you need to plan your job search and interviews like an operation. In the military, thank yous are not necessary. In fact, the words, "Don't thank me, the government thanks me twice a month," are probably echoing through your head right now. But in the civilian world, thank yous go a long way to helping you land that dream career. It's what the Center for Sales Strategy calls a valid business reason (VBR) to reach out and connect with someone in a meaningful way.

Pro tip: While in the interview, remember to take notes for things that impress you about the company or the job. When writing the card, refer to your notes and make mention of what impressed you. This does two things: 1. It puts you top of mind with the hiring manager (or interviewer), and 2. It shows you really care about the position and are passionate about the opportunity.

2. Thanking a Past (or Current) Mentor

Mentors are often appreciated at the moment, but once you've gone on your separate paths, you shouldn't abandon that relationship. In fact, you should put a reminder on your calendar to send out an email or snail mail-thank you to your mentor at least once a year or perhaps on significant dates, especially their birthday. Be sure to offer your help to them. There may be a time when your mentor may need your assistance, so offering it in advance is a great way to show your gratitude for their guidance.

3. The "Saved the Day" Colleague

We've all had those moments. Some emergency puts a critical project in danger, and a co-worker swoops in and saves the day. These are opportunities for you not only to express your sincere thanks but also to extend the same offer to them for any assistance they might need in the future.

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