Common sense says it’s wise to write to employers in a respectful tone. There are obvious things that you should do: start your covering letters with "Dear..." and end with an eager statement that supports the selection process, such as "I look forward to hearing from you. Please contact me if you need any more information".
All of this may sound obvious, and yet it’s far too easy to forget the niceties, particularly when you’re writing in a less formal medium. E-mail is a particularly good example. This is important since some recruiters now forgo the covering letter altogether and merely scan your e-mail to decide if your CV is worth downloading and reading – particularly if you're applying on spec.
Here are some tips on what to do when applying via e-mail... and what you should not do.
Subject: graduate surveyor job (1)
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (2)
Sent: 31 July 2013 14:42:31
Attachment: CV.doc (50.3 KB); cover_letter.doc (30.4 KB) (3)
I've heard that you're looking for graduate surveyors. Is that right? I've seen your ad and would like to apply. Here is my CV and cover letter. Please look at them and let me know if I'm what you want. (5)
James Wee (6)
1. Remember the subject line
Don't use an overly-general and informal subject line like this. "Application for graduate surveyor position," for example, is informative, stands out in a full inbox, and looks suitably professional.
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. Check your attachments
Always check that you’ve actually attached your CV before hitting "send", and give your CV a file name that includes your name. "James Wee – CV.doc" is less likely to get lost in the recruiter’s inbox.
With every CV, send its best friend – a covering letter. Don't forget to check the file name for that, too! Always refer the recruiter to your attachments when you write your e-mail.
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. Does your e-mail have a respectful, considered tone?
It’s all too easy for the tone of an e-mail to slacken off and become casual and thoughtless. How do you think the following would come across to an employer?
"I’ve heard that you’re looking for graduate surveyors. Is that right?’
An employer would think: "This candidate sounds as if they apply on hearsay. Is that really the standard of accuracy we want for a land surveyor in our company?"
It’s also a bit muddled, as the candidate's message goes on to say that he's "seen an ad". Which ad and where? What's more, "Is that right?" sounds a bit confrontational.
"Well, of course it’s right!" a recruiter might think. "I booked the ad!"
On the other hand, you have:
"Here is my CV and cover letter. Please look at them and let me know if I'm what you want."
This candidate might think they’re creating the right impression, but everything points to someone who’s just fired off this e-mail in a hurry.
"What I 'want'," a recruiter might think. "Is for this James Wee to actually read my ad and give me an idea of why he thinks he might be suitable for this job!"
By contrast, here's a better way to phrase this e-mail.
"I saw your corporate pamphlet for graduate surveyors at Malaysia University career services and am interested in applying. I have attached my CV and a cover letter for your consideration.
Please let me know if you require any additional information. You can reach me via this e-mail address, or on my mobile at 011 123 4567. I look forward to meeting you in person to further discuss what I can offer to your company."
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.