After sending out your resume to anyone with a valid email address, the moment will finally come when you witness a modern day miracle: an actual response. Somehow, the echoless chasm of online job application has returned a real-life person interested in you. If you're like me, you'll start celebrating. But you haven't gotten the job yet -- you got an email. And so begins a new game.
Seemingly innocuous, emails can make or break you as a candidate for a job. I know what you must be thinking -- I know how to email. You might have been emailing teachers since middle school, but you haven't been emailing in the "corporate world" and there are some rules here that no one ever officially explains. Here's my go at it:
Triple-check your writing for errors. The person you're writing to has a stack of applications they're trying to whittle down to one person -- don't give them a convenient reason to eliminate you. That means no typos, no bad grammar, no incorrect spelling. Have you addressed your email to the right person? Check just in case. I've made that mistake before and it's hard to recover.
Remember to be human. While you want to write in perfect English, you aren't a machine: you are a person talking to another person. So while you may end your note with a stiff "Sincerely," stay on the lookout for ways to personally connect with the recipient of your email. When a recruiter mentions a vacation, tell him to enjoy the beach; if the hiring manager pushes back a talk due to the flu, tell her to feel better. People remember these simple acts of politeness.
Above all, mirror the person you're emailing. An email conversation is just that -- a conversation. That means you have to mirror the person with whom you are conversing with in terms of the length and tone of your responses. If you received a formal five paragraph account of what the position entails and why you've been contacted, don't respond with "sounds great!"
On the other end of the spectrum, if the sender is keeping things short and sweet, don't go on and on -- he/she clearly does not have the time for it and might be rubbed they wrong way by your eagerness. That being said, remember that you are the one who has something to lose if this conversation doesn't go well -- so keep things a notch more polished on your end.
While these tips can hopefully help you with emailing prospective employers, my ultimate advice would be to get off of email as quickly as possible. Keep in mind the goal of an email in most cases -- to reach the first interview or fight for a second. As such, always push to talk more on the phone or in person. Why? You have greater opportunity in these conversations to convince a prospective employer that you are the right person for the job. So get to that phone call, Skype session, or (best case scenario) in-person chat as fast as you can without seeming like a crazy person.
About the Author
Ethan Scott graduated from Kenyon College and works as a strategist at Firstborn, a digital agency headquartered in TriBeCa.