At this point you probably realize that the job market is extremely competitive. Especially for entry-level and mid-level openings. But three things—in order of importance—that you need to succeed are positive relationships with people who can help you, owning a varied skillset, and the ability to stand out.

Writing a properly handwritten note is an inexpensive tool to accomplish all three goals at the same time.

Since most people rarely write handwritten notes anymore, doing so immediately marks you as a different, conscientious and detail-oriented person. But most importantly, you’re establishing a personal, human connection.

Pretend today is your birthday. You log on to your Facebook account and scan through the “Happy Birthday!” messages along your wall. Later the same day, you check your physical mailbox to find an envelope resting inside. Opening the envelope reveals a card wishing you a happy birthday and a short note recalling a story about something funny, interesting, or meaningful that you did in the past year.

Which message do you remember? The one you read electronically that took 15 seconds to write, or the note that required extra time and a personal touch?

Your potential employers and the people who can help you face a similar scenario daily. You want to be the person who is positively remembered and appreciated. Writing a handwritten note accomplishes that.

The Lost Art of Handwritten Notes

A general rule of thumb for deciding when a handwritten note is appropriate is when you’re asking, appreciating, and thanking:

Asking for an Informational Interview: When you discover somebody that you want to meet, send a handwritten note in addition to an email. Many informational interviews are made by contacting people via social networks like LinkedIn, commenting on that person’s website, or being e-introduced by a mutual contact. However, your handwritten note can demonstrate to the person you’d like to meet with that you’re committed and imply that you’re somebody who gets it. This can be the deciding push for somebody to agree to meet with you, especially if you don’t know them.

Appreciating Someone’s Effort: Nobody has ever created success alone. It takes many people helping you in small and occasionally large ways. The buddy who gives you a job lead, the friend who sends you an important link answering a career question you have, or the secretary who tipped you off about the best time to reach the hiring manager at a place you want to work. These people are important. They took time out of their lives. Appreciate them. They will remember your gratitude and will be more likely to vouch for you or help you again because they know their extra effort was noticed. Don’t underestimate the human desire to be valued.

Nearly 80 percent of U.S. workers say they are unsatisfied with their current jobs. A significant reason is that most people don’t feel their hard work or personal sacrifices are appreciated.

The next time you benefit from somebody else going the extra mile for you, write a thank you note.

Thanking After a Job Interview: Career experts and hiring managers universally agree that sending a sincere thank you message after your interview is vital. More than 50 percent of managers in an AccountTemps survey reported that they consider a thank you message as an influential piece of evaluating potential hires.

Where there is an argument is whether you should send a thank you via email. Some people prefer email because they can follow-up with the hiring manager very quickly after the interview. However, emails often easily get lost among the noise of hundreds of other emails interviewers sort through. Virtually everyone else sends email thank you notes, so the gesture is more a formality than a meaningful act. Also, the email doesn’t let you stand out or make as good of a personal connection as you could.

To get noticed positively, demonstrate your human touch, and show you’re the type of person willing to go the extra mile. Be proactive to ensure your interviewer receives the card within 24 to 48 hours after your interview.

You can do this by purchasing several thank you cards (you may have more than one interviewer) prior to your interview. Then, following your interview, write a genuine, thoughtful message that reiterates your interest in the position and why you’re a good fit. Drop the card in the closest mailbox on your way out of the building. The card will arrive to your prospective employer within one or two days. Or you can leave the thank you card with the receptionist. Very few people follow this step anymore, but those who do reap the benefits.

Final notes:

  • Remember that sending a handwritten note is all about making human connections. You want to create a personal touch and show professionalism.
  • Make sure your handwriting is neat and on good stationary. Presentation matters, especially with people who you don’t know very well.
  • The best handwritten notes are brief, but sincere. People can smell a lack of authenticity easily. State what you truly feel and you’re note is going to make a lasting impression on the recipient.

What are your tips for mastering the art of the handwritten note? Tell us in the comments!

Ask Daisy Auger-Dominguez, Vice President of Recruitment and Organization at Disney ABC Television Group, what recruiters look for in handwritten notes!