Email Correspondence

One of the most frequently used means of communication in the job search is e-mail, and its advantages are many. Delivery of an e-mail is prompt and assured (as long as you have the individual's correct e-mail address). Another positive is that e-mail is less intrusive than a phone call; the recipient can read the message at his or her leisure. Often, e-mail will be an employer's preferred method of communication. Following are some important suggestions and rules to remember when composing job search related e-mails.

Maintaining a Professional Tone

We are so used to communicating with friends, relatives, and casual acquaintances that we can easily lapse into a tone that is too informal for communicating with potential employers. What does this mean? The goal is to achieve a tone that is consistently professional, but also engaging.

The greeting and closing convey your tone. Address the person in a professional manner, using the title Mr., Ms., Dr., etc. If you are uncertain of the gender based on the name, then it is appropriate to write the first and last name: "Dear Terry Martin." Take care not to misspell the recipient's name. Choose a professional closing, such as "Sincerely", and sign the e-mail using both your first and last name. Consider including a professional signature line, with your expected degree and graduation date, name of The University, your phone number, and any other pertinent information such as LinkedIn profile hyperlink or student organization leadership roles.

Language, of course, conveys tone. Never use language that is potentially offensive or inflammatory. This is not the place for slang or curse words (not even mild ones).

A professional e-mail is distinctly different from an IM conversation or a text message. Avoid abbreviations such as "u" for "you," "plz" for "please," etc. Similarly, do not include emoticons. Sorry :(. Although they are expressive and fun to send to friends, they are not professional.

Believe it or not, capitalization can indicate tone. For example, if you write in all caps it may appear as though you are shouting. By the same token, do not type in all lower case because it may suggest laziness and a lack of attention to detail.

Lastly, consider your own e-mail address. Does it reflect the image you want to project to an employer? For example, partygirl09@gmail.com is obviously inappropriate.

Grammar and Formatting

It is all too easy to write an e-mail in haste and send it off without much thought to accuracy and appearance. Here are a few important things to bear in mind before you click that "send" button.

  • Ensure that your message is well-written, and grammatically correct. Read it over several times aloud. How does it sound? Better yet, ask someone else who has a knack for writing to read it over and give you feedback.
  • Be vigilant in checking for spelling and punctuation errors. Run spell check. And remember that spell check will not necessarily catch all errors (e.g., "to" instead of "too").
  • Select a font that is legible and fairly standard, such as Times New Roman, Arial, or Calibri.
  • Check your font size. Is it so small that it is hard to read? Or so large that it looks cartoonish? A 10-12 point font is recommended.
  • No colored fonts or backgrounds, please.
  • Look at the overall layout of your e-mail. Is it stylistically consistent? Are your paragraphs evenly spaced?

Length and Content

As with any written business communication, the goal is to be courteous but concise and to the point. You want to give the recipient the necessary information without being excessively wordy or including unnecessary information.

  • Be sensitive to the person's time, and include only essential items. Draft and edit your e-mail.
  • At the same time, be sure that the information you do include is clear and complete.
  • The subject line should be brief and indicate the content of the e-mail (e.g., "John Doe- Cover Letter/Resume").
  • Courtesies are very important. Remember to include "please" and "thank you." Express interest, appreciation, and enthusiasm.