Email for Job Seekers: Etiquette, Strategies, and Best Practices to Help You Succeed
Recent labor statistics have indicated that more than half of all job searches originate or proceed entirely online and through email. For jobseekers and employers alike, the shift towards online recruitment has many advantages. The convenience, speed, and responsiveness of online communications can't be beat, as anyone who has spent weeks waiting for a response to a résumé delivered by postal mail will surely confirm.
But while the superior speed and convenience of online job searches is indisputable, the emerging paradigm of online recruitment also comes with its own set of rules and guidelines. If you're relatively new to the online sphere -- or if you don't have a lot of experience using email for professional communication -- it's crucial to make sure you're well-versed in email etiquette before you begin exchanging messages with potential employers.
A Whole New World of Communication
Email is simultaneously similar and dissimilar to other types of communication. Like more traditional methods of communication, such as face-to-face interactions and telephone conversations, the ultimate objective of email is exchanging information. However, unlike these methods of communication, email strips conversations of the contextual clues that are a major component of face-to-face discussions. In an email conversation, you have to get your point across without the aid of gestures, facial expressions, and tone of voice -- and that can be much harder than it sounds.
Control Your Message Very Carefully
Most people tend to treat emails very casually, as evidenced by the text-message-style acronyms and abbreviations that often pop up in messages between friends and family members. But when you're communicating with potential employers, it's important to make sure that you exert a much stricter level of control over your emails.
Think of it this way: every sentence of every email you exchange with a future employer reflects on your fitness as a candidate. In a way, your emails will function unofficially as supplementary application materials. In other words, it's well worth your time to check -- and double check -- each email you send out during your job search.
Here are some more guidelines to help you ensure that your job search-related emails will increase your chances of landing the position you want:
Establish a Dedicated Email Account.
With so many free email services available, there's no reason not to have a professional-sounding email address just for your job search correspondence. A simple handle that includes your full name (such as firstname.lastname@example.org) is the best way to avoid confusion. Avoid handling any job search-related correspondence from your current workplace email address.
Stick with a Professional Look.
Before you start sending out job search-related emails, make a visit to your email program's "format" toolbar. If typically you use any non-standard elements in your emails, reset everything to the default setting. Delete signature files, automatic attachments, or any unusual format settings, and select a 10- or 12-point standard black font. You want to stand out from the crowd, but you don't want to be remembered as the applicant whose emails are bedecked with purple curlicue lettering and a glittery animated GIF!
Err on the Side of Formality.
According to Orville Pierson, author of The Unwritten Rules of the Highly Effective Job Search, one of the most common mistakes jobseekers make in their emails is adopting too casual a tone, which can come off as presumptuous and unprofessional. It's possible to be both friendly and formal in emails with potential employers, he says. Aim for a pleasant and polite tone, rather than an overly chummy one.
Edit, Edit, and Edit Some More.
You might not use the spellchecker when you're emailing your friends and family, but it's a must when you're composing job search-related emails. A few basic errors in spelling, punctuation, or grammar may not only make you look bad -- it may also send the message that you don't care very much about landing the position.
Triple-Check the Address Before You Hit 'Send.'
In addition to basic editing, make sure you check the address and recipient list before you send an email to a potential employer. Misdirected job search emails are a major faux pas that could torpedo your chances of landing your dream job -- or keeping your current position. Another common email mistake is the classic 'reply all' error -- accidentally selecting this instead of 'reply' could broadcast your job search intentions a lot more widely than you want to, so be careful.
Used prudently, email can be a great tool for jobseekers. Just remember that each email you send is likely to be scrutinized as rigorously as your résumé, so take pains to keep your correspondence as professional as possible.