Emailing an employer – especially for the first time – can be a significant source of anxiety for many jobseekers. As you try to pack in as much information as you can into as short a paragraph as possible, you may sometimes neglect certain key features of a formal email.
Sometimes, starting your email with a 'Dear...' or 'Hi!' may make all the difference when the recruiter is shortlisting candidates.
Email etiquette is even more important given how some recruiters will forgo reading the cover letter and downloading your résumé just from a quick once-over of your email – especially if you’re applying speculatively.
Don’t let these blunders affect your chances at employment!
1. Check the subject line
The subject line should contain keywords that can quickly clue recruiters in about the purpose of the email.
'Application for graduate surveyor position,' for example, is short but informative, stands out in a full inbox, and looks suitably professional.
Subjects with typos or those that are typed out in all uppercase or lowercase are also often mistaken as spam, so keep away from those.
2. Funny e-mail addresses are no fun!
Use an e-mail address with your initials and surname, or your full name. Kooky names, no matter how witty, won't ever cut it with graduate recruiters.
3. Be aware of your attachments
If you’re using a Gmail account, you’ll be prompted if you’ve mentioned 'attachment' somewhere in your email but neglected to attach any files.
As a safeguard of sorts, make it a point to mention that 'I’ve attached files X & Y' whenever you’re attaching something to an email so that Gmail can help you out.
That said, make it a habit to check your file attachments before hitting 'send'.
You should also give your résumé a file name that includes your name. 'James Wee – CV.docx' is less likely to get lost in the recruiter’s inbox. Check for the file format too. Doc, docx, and PDF files are the safest.
With every résumé, remember to include its best friend – a cover letter or cover email. Don’t forget to check the file name for that too.
Also, if you’re attaching large files of sample works to their emails (exceeding 500KB), be sure to ask the recipient beforehand if it’s okay to do so.
4. 'Hi', 'Hello', or 'Dear'?
'Hi' is a bit too casual for your first contact with an employer. 'Dear Charlene Wong' is probably your safest bet.
If the recruiter replies with a 'Hi' and your first name, then take their lead and do likewise in all your subsequent correspondence. Nonetheless, always be sure to maintain a professional tone.
5. Set the tone of your email
Emails to recruiters should always sound respectful and professional, but not overly stilted either.
In this email, James sounds lost and uncertain, especially with phrases like, 'Is that right?', and, 'Please look at them and let me know if I’m what you want.'
Instead, use words that can convey your confidence and competence, but don’t overcompensate either. Statements like 'I believe that I am a suitable candidate for the position' is fine, but not 'You will miss out if you do not hire me!'
Also, avoid emoticons and acronyms, even if the recruiter makes use of them in his or her response.
Even if 'FYA' – and other examples such as 'FYI' and 'IMHO' – is a commonly-used acronym within the working environment, keep away from it (until you get hired, at least).
Slangs and jargons are best avoided too. It totes make things confusing for ‘em recruiters!
6. Signing off
Close your e-mail as you would a 'proper' covering letter. You should make the effort to get a contact name for your application and address that person directly – so sign off with 'Yours sincerely' and use your full name.
Apply these rules, and voila! By comparison – a far more professional email: