The Netiquette of Internet Communications

Today I don my Emily Post hat and discuss proper etiquette on the Internet, or Netiquette.

"Please," "Thank you," business attire, waiting to be invited to sit at an interview, impeccably presented resumes, and other customs have separated the polite from the rude and often the winners from the losers in a job search. We have all learned to extend a hand for a firm handshake, to smile appropriately but not too much, and to sit forward in our chair, leaning slightly and making eye contact.

What, then, has changed?

Our learnings have been geared to in-person interviews, U.S. mail communications, and telephone protocols. Yet today much communication and interaction is conducted on the Internet. Although there are many advantages of Internet communications and e-mail in particular, one disadvantage is the lack of face-to-face or even voice-to-voice interaction. It is easy to misinterpret the tone or implication inherent in some messages, whether receiving or sending. Read on as we alert you to the pitfalls and provide pointers to keep you appropriate and successful in your Internet Job Search.

1. Understand style implications. When posting your resume or responding to an online job ad, use the normal arrangement of upper- and lower case letters. Do not use ALL CAPS! All caps are the electronic equivalent of shouting at the recipient. It is rude as well as hard to read.

2. Use e-mail appropriately. When requested to send a resume in text only or ASCII, be sure to do that. If you don't know how to reformat your resume into the requested mode, find out. You may want to impress the recipient by the formatting of your resume, but in the electronic environment, the recipient could care less. The hiring agent wants data in a form that can be easily converted to whatever database he or she might be using. Also, according to Wayne Gonyea, principal of the resume distribution service, ResumeXPRESS!, word processing programs like Word contain hidden commands that cause some strange results in databases. If you don't know how to save and send a file as text only, find out. Give the hiring agent what he asks for.

Occasionally you will be asked to submit a resume as a Word document. Plan ahead and have your resume saved as both a text only file ( .txt) and as a Word file ( .doc ). Again, if you don't know how, ask someone at Kinko's. If you are asked to send the resume by copying and pasting it into the body of an e-mail message, learn how to do that. Many recipients don't want to take the extra time to download and open files. That extra time may not seem like much to you, but multiple it by the 100 resumes that the hiring agent receives each day.

3. Don't send multiple copies. When you have an opportunity to submit a resume via e-mail, do not send the resume multiple times. Once is sufficient. If changes are made to the resume, sending one update is acceptable, with a note identifying the resume as updated. Resubmitting a resume after 90 days is acceptable.

Multiple or repeated resumes clog up the hiring agent's e-mail and database. Remember the delete key is easy to use. Don't give the hiring agent a reason to do so.

4. Practice safe e-mailing. Make sure that your virus protection is current. Sending a potential employer or hiring agent a computer virus is not going to help your candidacy.

5. Respond appropriately. When you locate a job ad on the web that asks you to respond by U.S. mail, don't look around for a back door such as sending the resume to the webmaster. If the company wanted the webmaster to receive the resume, it would have directed you accordingly. You can try to beat the system, but hiring agents know how they want to receive resumes.

6. Follow instructions. When you are asked to submit a resume, don't refer the hiring agent to your web resume. Most of the time the person contacting you is not the person who will make the hiring decision and, second, the hiring agent does not have the time to surf the net looking for resumes. Web resumes are pretty. If you want one, get one. However, they won't really do you any good.

7. Be specific. Your resume online should contain an objective and identify the position that you seek. A general resume that allows the hiring agent to try to find a position to fit your skills and experience is a waste of your time and theirs.

8. Avoid cover letters. Cover letters should be omitted unless they contain some specific information that is not included in your resume. If you want to include one, keep it short, to the point, and factual. Hype will kill your candidacy.

9. Do unto others. As in any social situation, treat others as you would like to be treated, follow the rules, and more doors will open for you.