I don't think people do this enough, but it's a no-brainer: Writing thank-you notes.
Sure, e-mail is the fastest and the most convenient way to communicate in the business world these days. But if you want to stand out - whether in the job search process or in snagging a new client - give what some may call an old-fashioned practice a try.
"It's a differentiator," says Anna Post, a business etiquette trainer with the Emily Post Institute. "Say, you're applying for a job and you have gone through the interview process. You write a thank-you note to the person who interviewed you, and your competitor doesn't. All other things being equal, it could make quite a big difference."
In fact, nearly nine out of 10 executives say a thank-you note after a job interview can boost a candidate's chances, according to a survey of 150 executives from human resources, finance and marketing departments of large companies. (The survey by Accountemps, a staffing firm, has a margin of error of 6.2 percentage points.)
But only 49 percent of job candidates send thank-you notes, according to the executives polled in the survey.
Fifty-two percent of respondents said they prefer to receive a handwritten note, compared with 44 percent who like e-mail.
Even if you don't get that job or that client, Post says you'll likely be remembered for your act.
On the other end, Post makes an interesting personal observation: People remember the one couple that did not send a thank-you note for the wedding present years after the fact.
"Everyone likes to be thanked," she says. "In an e-mail, that's good. Handwritten, it's much better. It shows ... that you've taken the time to sit down and give this person your thoughts."
Post offers some pointers on writing effective thank-you notes:
Perhaps the most obvious tip: Spell the recipient's name correctly.
Keep the note short: Three to five sentences are sufficient.
Thank the person for dinner or whatever the case may be. It could be as simple as "It was terrific to meet you at so-and-so event." And it's OK to throw in a business card.
Reference a follow-up if that's relevant.
Lastly, thank the person in closing.
Did a thank-you note make all the difference in your job search or any other situation? Let me know.
From the mailbag: Readers continue to respond to an earlier column about how much time employees waste at work.
A Salary.com survey found that workers waste 20 percent of their workday, or 1.7 hours of an 8.5-hour workday.
Joe, a reader from Canton, says that figure seems a little high.
"But if it is that much, then the supervisor can't be blameless for not noticing and assigning more work," he writes. "Some low-level employees might also point out that bosses 'waste' at least as much time in unproductive parts of meetings, schmoozing with clients, etc."
Send your stories, tips and questions to working@ baltsun.com. Please include your first name and your city. On the Job is published Monday at www.baltimoresun.com.