Job Search Email Etiquette (Part I)

Alison Doyle, the job search expert at, wrote an article titled Email Etiquette for Job Seekers.  In her brief article she says it’s important to write a professional message that helps the recipient understand what you are saying easily (because of the grammar, formatting, etc.) and makes it easy for them to get back in touch with you (because of your email signature).

I have this weird passion for good, strong emails for two reasons:

  1. I write, and receive, lots of emails every day. I’m practically at my desk for 8 – 10 hours a day and I see LOTS of emails coming in and going out.
  2. I see lots of emails from job seekers who are trying to communicate a message, but fail miserably.

Part of the reason for the failure is that we just aren’t sure what message we need, or want, to communicate.  What we really want to say is “PLEASE GIVE ME THE JOB! I’M CLEARLY THE MOST QUALIFIED!”  But we have to say something else, like share your Me in 5 Seconds, or do some kind of networking, which can be a slow process for someone in need of income.

Another reason for failure might be that we are either unfamiliar with, or too comfortable with, email as a communications tool.  Younger people tend to send emails that are way, way, way too informal.  They would send something that looks more like a text: “R U there yet?”

People who have experience with traditional memos (yes, older people) might put something like “Dear Mr. Alba:”  — I hate that format as it makes me think you think I’m some bureaucrat hiding in an office that demands the utmost respect (I’m actually a fairly approachable, very casual communicator).

A significant problem I see, though, is the one thing I want YOU to focus on.  I see messages people send to me (as a potential employer, or networking connection), and messages people send to potential employers.  The problem is:


Regardless of the length of the message (please don’t ramble on!), the message that kills, or delays, the opportunity, is the one that doesn’t have a message.

It doesn’t say what you want.

It doesn’t say how to follow-up (or, what the next step is).

It doesn’t help me understand why I am reading the message, or why you sent it.

I challenge you to write messages that are concise and that have meat in them.  Tell me what the purpose of the message is, give me any relevant information, and tell me what I should do now that I have that information.

Next post: another big idea for sending a strong message (online or offline).

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