Gone are the days of printing résumés, walking into offices, and submitting them directly to the people working there. These days, most employers post job openings on websites (such as LinkedIn, Monster, and Workopolis), where job seekers can search for opportunities based on keywords, locations, and job titles. Once a job seeker finds a position they are interested in, they can apply directly through the site by uploading their résumé and cover letter.
Throughout the job search process, your e-mail account will play a key role in your job search. It is especially important to be aware of professional e-mail etiquette to make sure you don’t stand out in a negative way. Because almost all job search interactions begin online these days, you want to make sure you make a great digital first impression.
Here are six of the biggest e-mail etiquette mistakes you might not be aware of:
- Having a long or overly complicated e-mail address: Make sure your e-mail address is easy for other people to type out. You do not need to include your full name, a list of your favourite numbers, or date of birth in your e-mail address. For example, [first name][middle name][last name]firstname.lastname@example.org is unnecessarily long. Although you still want to have identifiable features in your e-mail address, it would be better to consider [first initial][last name]@email.com. If you have a very long first or last name, consider using an abbreviated version that takes advantage of your initials. Most workplaces have character limits on their e-mail addresses, so if you’re having trouble, think of the e-mail address you were given in your last place of employment and use it as a guide. For example, someone named James Albert Huang could have the e-mail address email@example.com. It’s short, easy to remember, and still identifies the sender/receiver.
- Using unprofessional words in your e-mail address: When conducting your job search, be sure you are presenting yourself professionally at all times. If your personal e-mail address contains a family nickname, a favourite animal, or similar features, you may want to consider creating a new account. For example, firstname.lastname@example.org is unlikely to project a strong professional image. If you are self employed or working as a freelancer, it may be appropriate to include a reference to your occupation in your e-mail address, but use it with discretion.
- Using an outdated e-mail host: Just like everything else, e-mail domains come in and out of style. What was once considered cutting edge 10 years ago is likely outdated today. Especially in fields such as information and communications technology, engineering, and media, it is important to show prospective employers that you are up-to-date with current online trends and practices. For example, e-mail addresses hosted on some of the older e-mail platforms that were popular (such as Hotmail or Yahoo) can make you appear dated at best, and outdated at worst. It’s always a good idea to make sure which e-mail host is popular in the area you’re looking for work, and create an account there. This can sometimes be country specific, but in Canada and the United States, our recommendation is to use a Gmail account.
- Failing to reply in a timely manner: While you’re job searching, you should be checking your e-mail at least once a day. If you apply for a job on Monday and don’t check your e-mail again until Friday, then there’s a chance you could miss a response from the employer who was interested in setting up an interview. In a competitive job market, employers don’t have time to chase down prospective employees. If you aren’t replying to your messages, employers will move on quickly to the next applicant—especially in the later stages of the hiring process with multiple e-mails in a single day to arrange interviews, discuss expectations, and so on. If you aren’t responsive to these messages, many employers will take that as a sign that you’re not very interested in the position they’re offering.
- Not using appropriate greetings in your e-mail correspondence: When sending e-mails to someone you have never met in person, it can be difficult to know the gender and marital status of the recipient. Using “Dear Sir” for someone whose gender identity you don’t know is inappropriate and the interviewer could have a negative impression of you. If you know that the recipient is female, avoid using, “Dear Mrs. [Last name],” with the assumption that they’re married. Instead, use the neutral “Ms.” because prospective employers pay attention to how you address your email. Being too formal might come off as insincere, whereas being too casual can be seen as unprofessional or presumptuous. In most cases, it’s best to address e-mails using “Dear [First Name Last Name],” if you have that information. If not, you can play it safe and use “Dear Sir or Madam.” Once you establish contact through e-mail, try to follow the lead of the person you’re communicating with. If they address you by your first name, you can probably do so as well. In the same way, if a hiring manager or prospective employer addresses you in a more formal way, for example, “Dear Mr. [Last Name],” then you should also follow suit.
- Sending e-mails with poor formatting and spelling: Aside from having a proper e-mail address, how you write the actual e-mail itself is also crucial in the job search process. In fact, it may be the most important part of this whole article. Having special fonts, italics, coloured background, and text won’t impress employers. If anything, it will push your application toward the “rejected” pile. You also want to keep in mind that recruiters and HR professionals often read e-mails on smartphones or tablets. Avoid using images or lengthy paragraphs because they can be difficult to read on a small screen. Don’t use acronyms like “TTYL,” “PPL,” and “LOL,” and always check your spelling and grammar before clicking the Send button.
Communication skills are one of the biggest indicators of success in the workplace. Employers like to see that prospective employees have excellent communication skills in addition to all of the education and experience they may bring to a position. Avoiding the mistakes listed here will not only help you in your job search but will also be useful after you get hired.
Don’t let common e-mail mistakes prevent you from getting the interview you prepared for.