Breaking E-Mail Rules in Job Search Can Cost You the Job

Breaking E-Mail Rules in Job Search Can Cost You the Job

So many steps of your job search are done by e-mail and mistakes CAN cost you the job. Why? Because the reader is determining if you can write grammatically correct, if you can organize your thoughts, and if you can write excellent e-mails for them IF they hire you. The reader is not the only person judging you. Your e-mails might be forwarded to other interviewers, including the hiring manager. Finally, bad e-mails can cost you the job since they are so easy to discard by the reader and forgotten. Delete. So you NEED your e-mails to stand out and be perfect.

Because younger candidates are accustomed to instant messaging and cell phone texting, their abbreviated language is natural and they are unaware it is perceived as disrespectful.

Since the dawn of e-mail, I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly. And I’ve made plenty of mistakes myself during my job searches. So, let’s see if you can stay within the unwritten rules:

1. Check your grammar. Again. Again. Trick: Read your e-mail out loud to yourself. If needed, especially if English is your second language, ask someone to “disaster-check” it for errors. I continue to be amazed at the amount of typos, missing commas, run-on sentences and more. Microsoft OFFICE shows red and green squiggly lines. Use those to correct grammar and spelling but don’t rely on the technology exclusively. Read it out loud again.

2. Use a formal business letter format. Format the e-mail as if you are putting that letter in the stamp-based mail. Some of you remember the old days when we would get blank stationery that matched our resume paper. Refresh your memory on the format of a business letter: put the header up top with a date, write the body of the message, the close, and then a full signature block at the bottom. Today, as a hiring manager, I receive one big block of words: no paragraphs, sloppy grammar and an unprofessional piece of mail. And a close of “Thanks, Bob” with nothing below that.

Another Trick: Print your e-mail prior to sending to assure it is formatted nicely. You will catch some additional errors AND many hiring manager or Human Resources professionals will print it, too.

3. Have a great subject line.  Wow, I get the strangest subject lines. Here are some real ones: “interested in your job” (yes all lower case letters), “Interesting Opportunity”, “Job Application”.  Here are some that I recommend:

  • Candidate for Marketing Manager at GE – Jane Miller (your name)
  • Marketing Manager at GE, – Jane Miller
  • Jane Miller and Position Opportunity at GE

4. Complete your signature block. Always put your name as you like to be called (If you’re a Tim, not a Timothy, put Tim so we know what to call you!), your address, e-mail and phone. Why put your e-mail again if you are sending an e-mail? Because if this e-mail letter is forwarded, which you want it to be, your e-mail address is often lost. Many candidates assume “but all of my contact information is in my resume attached”. Busy executives or hiring managers don’t have time to look it up in the resume and what if your resume attachment was lost in the forwarding process?

5. Be formal throughout. Stop all cute, trite, informal, colloquial or otherwise “silly” phrases. No more “Hiya, let’s chit chat, awesome, cool, thnx, take care, let’s grab coffee”, etc. Write as if you were talking to a senior executive sitting across from you in a business suit. Write out “I’m, here’s” to I am and here is.

6. Do not send from mobile phones. You are unable to format appropriately, cannot leave a strong signature, and recipients don’t want to see “sent from my mobile phone” on the bottom. That indicates you don’t have time to dedicate time for your job search or for your interest in the position.

7. Don’t forget the attachment(s). Most forgotten resumes are due to the writer rushing, sending out form e-mails (a no-no) or just being sloppy. Take your time and refer to your check-list for all communications. Trick: Put a big yellow sticky note on your PC saying “Don’t Forget the Resume”. Trick: Send your e-mail to yourself first, to open it as if a hiring manager would. Put yourself in their shoes.

8. Have a strong closing statement. This is rare in most job-search-related e-mails. You want your close to convey that you will follow up, that you are organized and committed to following up, and that you are passionate about this opportunity. Do NOT pass on the next steps to the reader. Bad examples include “Please call me within the next few days”, “I look forward to hearing from you as quickly as possible”, or, worse, no closing sentence but “thank you”, “regards”. Strong closing sentence examples are:

“Ms. /Mr. _____, I will contact you again on

“Ms. /Mr. _____, thank you for your consideration and I look forward to being included in the next step of your recruiting process. If I don’t hear from you, I will contact you again on to follow up.”