E-mail Use in Your Job Search
When To Use E-mail
Your First Contact With An Employer?
- For a first contact, e-mail employers only when an employer specifically invites or instructs you to do so — with instructions on the employer's web site, a job ad, a verbal conversation, other reliable advice, etc. Otherwise, you are safer sending a resume and cover letter via hard copy.
Responding to Employers?
Take Your Cues From Each Employer:
- If an employer has been communicating with you, take your cues from the employer. If s/he clearly prefers the phone and there's no problem reaching each other, use the phone. If s/he uses e-mail, follow suit.
- If an employer e-mails you, you can probably respond via e-mail. The key is to READ the e-mail sent by the employer and follow instructions.
- Be very careful about noting TO WHOM and HOW you should respond. Morgan McKenzie of XYZ Inc., might send the e-mail, but instruct you to MAIL your resume and a cover to Chris Corrigan of XYZ.
- E-mails that have been forwarded to you (or to many) and/or have gone through lots of forwarding may take more time for you to interpret. Read the details so you do the right thing. It won't help you to shoot off a response to someone who just happened to forward the e-mail but isn't the actual employer.
Thank You Notes After Interviews?
- This question comes up a lot with students. An e-mail thank-you isn't wrong. Employers will appreciate that you did at least send thanks. If you know that the person who interviewed you is traveling a lot, s/he may see your e-mail before getting back to the office to see hard copy mail. If the hiring decision will happen very quickly following the interview, an e-mail might be seen sooner than hard copy. Hard copy is still nice, and can follow up an e-mail. To see a sample thank you letter: Cover Letters/Letters of Application
Job Negotiations? Important Q's About Offer and Terms?
- Negotiations are better conducted verbally than in writing. If you don't understand the benefits package information provided with a job offer and have questions, a verbal conversation might be best. However, if speed is of the essence and you are only reaching voice mail by phone, you could alert the employer via e-mail that you have some questions and are hoping to speak directly. Suggest times when you might be available to speak.
Consider When You Need a Written Record
- If you do something important verbally — like agree upon an interview date and time, or accept a job offer — it's important to follow up in writing, and an e-mail can serve that purpose. Usually an employer will confirm an interview time in writing, and an employer should always follow up a verbal employment offer with a written offer. But if the employer doesn't, you can. Example: "Thank you so much for the offer of an interview at your Minneapolis office. I look forward to seeing you on Tuesday, March 7, at 8:00 a.m." Putting information in writing creates a record and can (if worded clearly) protect everyone from confusion and misunderstanding.
What Always To Include In Your E-mail
Do Not Abandon Business Etiquette in Your E-mail! Remember:
- Business-like writing style.
- Attention to grammar, spelling, punctuation (same rules as for hard copy correspondence).
- Your e-mail alias, your subject line, and your content all have to be clear and appear appropriate to your recipient. Failure to do this can get your e-mail ignored and/or deleted as junk or spam.
Your E-mail Alias:
- Using your SCSU e-mail is fine unless you are close to graduation.
- Using the "edu" extension lets the recipient know you are affiliated with an educational institution — and being a student is your main job now.
- The semester of graduation you should set-up a private e-mail account to use for job search. Don't forget to list this new e-mail on your resume. "Hotdogdude@hotmail.com" or "Sillyefgrl75849@gmail.com" are not appropriate.
Your Subject Line:
- Clear to the recipient, as in:
"Application for graphic designer position listing 84G11"
"Follow-up to our meeting of 2/21 at SCSU Career Day"
- A blank subject line is unwise. You've given the recipient a reason to ignore or delete your e-mail.
- "Read this" and "information" and "for your consideration" and the like are meaningless. (Aren't all e-mails supposed to be read, and contain information, etc.?)
- Clear, concise, to the point. Respect the employer's time. Don't expect him/her to work to figure out why you're writing. Unclear e-mails risk being ignored.
- Start by saying why you're writing. "I'm applying for the accounting internship position your firm advertised through www.scsucareers.com."
- Brief information about yourself. "This May I will graduate from St. Cloud State University with a bachelor's degree in Mass Communications. My experience includes an internship with the St. Cloud daily newspaper."
- DON'T write like the script of a phone call as in "Hi, I'm such-and-such. How are you today?...."
- The same rules of hard copy correspondence apply to business e-mail.
For more info on content, see Cover Letters/Letters of Application
Your Signature Block:
- Include one. It should give your full name and full contact information, including mailing address, e-mail address and phone number(s). After your name, you can include something that identifies you (as a job title would), like "Biology major at SCSU".
- DON'T assume that your reader will open attachments to get basic information that should appear in your e-mail, like your name and who you are.
Sending & Naming Attachments:
- If you're e-mailing an employer because the employer instructed applicants to do so, again check any instructions the employer has given. If the employer said to attach a resume, do it. If an employer said to attach a cover letter, do it (and in your e-mail give a short explanation of what's attached, why, and who it's from). Use the format the employer requests.
- NAME YOUR ATTACHMENT(s) LOGICALLY — logically for the recipient, not you, that is. "EmilyAlderResume.doc" works fine. "Myresume4jf206" might work for you, but won't mean anything or be helpful to the employer.
- When attaching an MS Word document, include the extension ".doc" so the employer (and the employer's computer) knows it's a Microsoft Word document.
- Don't send a pdf file to an employer unless you are instructed to do so by the employer.
Final Cautions & Considerations:
- Be aware that e-mail is a form of written communication and it creates a written record.
- Retain copies of the e-mail you send and receive.
- Don't let the speed and ease of sending e-mail blind you to the fact that you will be judged on what you say and how you say it.
- E-mail, like other written correspondence, doesn't reveal your tone of voice. Choose your words carefully.
- A well-written e-mail can quickly impress an employer (and the reverse is true).
See the Employer's Instructions!
- Before e-mailing a resume to an employer, check the employer’s web site for instructions on how to do so, or ask the employer for the preferred method.
- For example, an employer may instruct you to submit your resume as a Microsoft Word document as an attachment to your e-mail. Or an employer may prefer you submit your resume as an ASCII file — a document that is pure text and contains no formatting (i.e., no font enhancements, no spacing enhancements, etc.). The employer might want your resume text in the body of your e-mail. Or the employer could have other preferences and instructions.
- Do your research before sending your resume. Sending a resume that an employer is unable to retrieve and/or read will simply cause frustration for the employer and will not advance your cause of wanting to make a favorable impression on the employer.
What if I Can't Find Any Instructions From the Employer?
- Send two versions with one e-mail: attach an MS Word version of your resume, and include your resume text in your e-mail. That gives the employer an option of looking at the version s/he chooses.
- For more on this topic see: WetFeet.com