6 Job Seeker E-mail Uh-ohs!

I recently had the pleasure of helping a terrific baby boomer job seeker who is looking to change careers. She needs a strong resume that makes the most of her transferable skills to help her make the leap from a long-time profession to her new chosen field.

Luckily, she has a lot going for her, including recent experience in the field she is transitioning to – a very important bridge for anyone making the leap. It not only gives her some much-needed experience, but shows she is sincere about making the change. And it helps answer a potential employer’s question “Does she really want to make this change or is she just using us until the economy improves and she can get back to her old field?”

In her case, she really does want to make the change. But when she sent me a copy of her old resume, I noticed something huge that could undermine any effort to show she was really ready to move on to a new field: she still had an automatic signature that, in bold letters, proclaimed her to be in her old profession.  Even the best resume and cover letter can’t paint a new picture if you use the old frame!

So I figured it’s time for a few quick reminders about e-mails you use to communicate with potential employers.  Here are five things you need to check carefully before sending a potential employer or recruiter an e-mail:

  • Your signature: If you have an automated signature, job search may be the time to stop using it. Better to sign it fresh each time, with just a professional closing and your name. You might want to include key contact information if you didn’t already do so in the body of the e-mail.
  • Your e-address: When you start a job search, you might find it useful to create an e-mail address just for the search, especially if your regular e-address is not professional. A professional e-address has some version of your name (ASmith, BKJones, SaraBrown) and nothing cute, funny, or indicative of your preferences such as LATTEGUY or IDOLWATCHER. HOTMAMA is also a no-no…at least for your job hunt. (Not a fan of all caps by the way.)
  • Grammar and typos: This is pretty obvious, but we get lazy online and I can’t tell you how many typos, misspellings and grammatical errors I’ve seen in transmission e-mails. (Some of them mine. 😉 ) My favorite one was from a talented woman looking to do public service. (I will let you figure out her embarrassing typo.) So please read your job search e-mails over a couple of times (a fresh set of eyes never hurts) and, before sending, give it one last slow review.  The typo you save could be the job you get.
  • Your greeting: “Hey Joe! How’s it going?” is probably not the best way to introduce yourself to a firm, although you’d be surprised at how some people contact employers. Again, not a time to be cute or overly friendly. If you’ve met the person and they asked you to call them by their first name, by all means do so. Otherwise, use a formal greeting such as Mr. Jones, Ms. Smith, Dr. Scholl, etc.
  • Tone & length: Employers can get hundreds of e-mails a day – many of them not about your job search and all seeking immediate response. You need to respect a potential employer’s time. PLEASE don’t go on an on about some idea you had or even how much you admire the company/boss. Show you know what you need to say and say it as clearly and concisely as possible. Again, be careful about being overly friendly. Even if you have met the person and get along well, keep your tone warm but professional while part of the job search process.
  • Frequency: Once again, with respect to a potential employer’s time, when it comes to e-mail, more is definitely not better.  Especially when you’re trying to get them to give you some feedback on your chances: After an Interview: Can Weekly Follow-up Calls and Emails Help Get You the Job?

On the other hand, well-written e-mails that set the right tone, communicate clearly, and help move the process along can leave them feeling “this is a person I want to work with.” Remember…each thing you do is seen as an indication of what you’d be like to work with on a daily basis. And that definitely includes how you handle e-mail!

And if you have any e-mail uh-ohs or no-nos to share, please feel free. Would love to hear stories related to job search e-mails that went awry as well as good ones that that made you sit up and take extra notice.


About the author…

Ronnie Ann, founder of Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development and her own adventures as a serial job seeker. She can also be found on her new blog, and on Google+.

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