Sometimes having a traditional touch can give job-seekers an edge. One example of this is the thank-you note, which remains a job-search mainstay, according to a new survey from staffing firm Accountemps.

Eighty percent of human resources (HR) managers said they take thank-you messages into account when deciding who to hire. The bad news? Respondents reported receiving notes from only 24 percent of applicants, 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?”

When it comes to following up after an interview, HR managers say the most appropriate methods 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.”

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

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Another thing to keep in mind is that companies are looking for employees that exemplify their brand. Think about that when crafting the style and tone of your communications.