Nowadays putting together a compelling resume with a strong cover letter is quite easy thanks to all those useful online tips and clever resume building tools. It’s certainly a good thing that the stress and bother of composing a professional CV is now so much smoother and bother-free.
Still, many people tend to forget that applying for a job is a complex process that doesn’t stop at the resume. Because no matter how good that CV is, it’s the accompanying email that a future employer will see first, and so it has to be equally convincing. And the proper way of professionally composing such an email has to be learned just as well.
Job Seeker’s Email Etiquette 101
The Email Account
Although people think it’s an insignificant detail, even the email address conveys a message about candidates and how seriously they take the job hunt. This is why it’s highly beneficial to have an email address that is business compatible, preferably in the format of ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’.
If you already know who is going to read your resume – after doing a little research in the job posting, LinkedIn page or by asking the company directly – then address the email to the person that will be receiving it, using the correct greeting – such as ‘Dear Mr Smith’, strictly followed by a comma.
However, if there is no way to find out who the addressee will be, then using ‘Dear Sir/Madam’, ‘To whom it may concern’ or ‘Dear Hiring Manager’ should do the trick.
The Email’s Subject Line
Leaving the subject line empty is not only a rookie mistake, but it could also lead to the automatic deletion of your email. Thankfully, it doesn’t require Shakespearean skills to word the subject line in a professional manner: using ‘[Your Name] Job Application’, ‘Application for [Job Position]’, the job’s reference number or a combination of these will definitely clarify the email’s purpose and help future employers find your email again when it comes to sorting through the candidates.
Tone and Appearance
Applying for a job is a serious business and the tone of the email should directly reflect that. Think of the whole situation as writing a business letter that uses a positive tone and contains formal addressing, layout and wording.
Additionally, choosing the right font and a suitable text size also plays a crucial role in successfully conveying the message. In that regard, it’s best to use simple, easy-to-read fonts like Arial, Cambria or Times New Roman in the sizes of 10 or 12.
The Body of the Message
This is the trickiest part, since it heavily depends on whether the cover letter has to be attached to the email or not.
If it’s the former then the email has to be written in exactly the same manner as a cover letter: three paragraphs explaining why you are writing, what makes you the ideal candidate and where you can be found. However, if the cover letter is an attachment, try to be as brief as possible in the email and detail only what is strictly necessary.
Including a signature is ridiculously easy, since practically all email clients are capable of automatically attaching preset text to the end of the message. And to make things better, all that it takes to create a professional signature is to use the following format:
- Firstname Lastname
- Email address
- Phone number
- LinkedIn profile or professional website (optional)
Remember that, unless otherwise specified by the employer, attach only those documents that are requested in the job advertisement. Also, before sending be certain that the attachments have actually been attached, that they each have a descriptive name – such as ‘John Smith CV.doc’ – and are in a standard file format – with the most commonly accepted file types being .PDF or .DOC.
Edit, Proofread, Repeat
This should be a no-brainer by now, but a true professional should never send out a job application email without checking it first. Poor grammar, typos and sentences that make no sense are still the number one reason for being rejected by recruiters. Therefore, the use of spellchecking and asking a third party to proofread the final text is highly advised.
Contrary to popular belief, the first phase of the job application process doesn’t end with sending the email and waiting for a response. As a matter of fact, it’s useful to ensure that the email has actually been read and that the attached resume has been forwarded to the right person.
This is best achieved by waiting a few days after the email is sent, then following up by email, phone or in person, restating your interest in the job offer in a polite manner.
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