Email Best Practices for the Job Search

By Don Goldstein

Job Search Email

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It’s hard to believe that email has been in wide use for only about 25 years because it’s difficult to imagine a world and a job search without it. In this post, I will talk about some of the basics of email etiquette and how making the best use of emails can greatly contribute to a successful job search. I will identify different types of job search email and suggest some wording for these messages, but please don’t copy the examples word for word. Most email messages need to be tailored to the specific situation and should reflect your own writing style.

General Email Etiquette

1. The name on your email account must be appropriate for business use. If possible, it should have your first and last name. It’s a good idea to create a special email account just for your job search. If you are currently working, NEVER use the company email to look for other jobs. Company email accounts are not private—they belong to the company and the company can read them at any time.

2. If possible, send your job search email to a specific person. Use a clear subject line so it is readily understandable and doesn’t get filtered as spam. Make it obvious as to why you are writing, such as “Application for______.”

3. While you may use “Hi” as a salutation for people you know and for more informal email, for job search correspondence use “Dear Mr.,” “Dear Ms.,” or “Dear Dr”. Close your email with “Best Wishes” or “Sincerely” and your signature.

4. Avoid slang, abbreviations, emoticons, and acronyms. Use full sentences and paragraphs. Do not answer email messages with one word.

5. Proofread your email. A typo in a job search email is as bad as a typo on a resume or cover letter.

6. Respond to emails in a timely manner. It depends on the situation, but two business days is the most that you should take to respond.

7. Never send an email that has been written in anger. Let it sit overnight and then decide the next day if you really want to send it. Consider that sending it may give you momentary satisfaction but will not serve you well in the long run.

Job Search Email Messages

Job Application Email

Let’s assume that you are applying for a position and, in the instructions, they told you to email your resume and cover letter. How do you do it? While it is possible to send your cover letter in the body of the email, I think it’s better to send both as PDF attachments. Hiring Managers often like to print out the attachments, and a printed email cover letter doesn’t look as professional as a separate document. You can keep this email short:

I am applying for the position of _______. My resume and cover letter are attached.

Follow-Up Email

Now let’s assume that you have sent in a job application, more than two weeks have gone by, and you haven’t heard anything back. This is not unusual and much more often than not, a company will not let candidates know that they have not been selected for an interview. However, a follow-up email cannot hurt unless they have explicitly stipulated that there should be no follow-up messages. Address it to the same person or the generic “Dear Hiring Manager” from your original application saying:

I applied for the position of _____ on April 15th. I just wanted to follow-up to make sure that you received my application.

This might be ignored, but then again, it might bring you to mind again or cause the hiring manager to look again at the application of a candidate who had enough initiative to follow up. Also, applications do sometimes get lost, accidentally skipped over, or misplaced.

Thank You Email

A thank-you email is an absolute necessity after a job interview. The thank you should be sent out either the same or the next day. If you were interviewed by more than one person, send a separate, tailored note to each individual. The note should reiterate your interest in the position and possibly add in something important that did not come up in the interview.

Here is some suggested wording:

Thank you for interviewing me yesterday for the position of _______. I enjoyed learning about the needs of your department and the future challenges to your company.

I believe that my background in data visualization in the healthcare field and my ability to explain complex statistical concepts to a non-technical audience make me a great fit for this position.

Thank you again for the opportunity to discuss my qualifications. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Negotiating a Job Offer Email

After receiving a job offer, under certain circumstances there may be room to further negotiate the salary, benefits, starting date, or other terms of employment. Often this is done in person or by phone, but if you have the opportunity to conduct these negotiations by email, I highly recommend it. First of all, there are people who don’t think fast on their feet, and email allows you to slow the process and strategically plan a good reply. Also, email provides each side with a written record so there aren’t problems of memory or interpretation.

Here is a suggestion for an email reply to a job offer:

Thank you so much for your written offer for the position of _______. I am very honored to have been chosen by your organization. Before I accept, I did have some concerns about the salary offer, and I have some questions about the benefits package and a few other items. Would you be the best person to talk to about that or should I contact the HR director?

Final Thoughts

In order to have a successful job search, every element of the process has to be well-considered, carefully thought out, reviewed and re-reviewed, and executed professionally. A great email strategy will help you not only to get the job but will continue to be extremely important as you advance in your career.