Communication skills are everything when you’re looking for a job, especially in this day and age. So much of the recruiting and hiring process happens via email, and good etiquette can differentiate you from other competitive candidates.
When email is your primary mode of communication, the other person can’t hear the inflection or enthusiasm in your voice. They can’t see your facial expressions or body language. All they have to go on is your writing, so you want to make sure your words represent you well.
No matter if you’re working with a recruiter, hiring manager, or a potential employer, a friendly, professional communication style sets the tone for every interaction you have moving forward.
Email Etiquette Tips to Make a Positive First Impression
Here are some helpful email reminders for making a strong first impression:
1. Address the Recipient by Name
You always want to convey friendliness and respect, and addressing someone by name is the quickest way to do that. A simple “Hi, Jim” or “Hey, Carla” sets the tone for an amiable exchange. Unless you’re deep into a rapid-fire email thread, omitting the greeting may come across as inappropriately informal, so make sure you use people’s names when messaging them.
2. Check Your Grammar
It should go without saying that you have to spellcheck your emails. But you need to use proper grammar as well. Run the text through a tool like Grammarly to catch any mistakes. Even if you think you’re a grammar pro, it never hurts to error-proof your messages.
3. Offer Multiple Options for Meeting Times
When you’re trying to coordinate an interview or meeting, be flexible to accommodate to everyone’s schedule.
Instead of saying, “I’m free at 1 p.m. on Wednesday,” offer several windows from which the other person can choose. Replying with, “I have windows from 1 to 4 p.m. on Wednesday and 9 to 11:30 a.m. on Friday,” helps significantly and shows that you’re considerate of their schedules. Chances are, they’ll be able to find something within those timeframes that works for everyone involved.
This also helps avoid the dreaded scheduling issue of sending multiple emails just to nail down an interview, so extra points for efficiency!
4. Make Sure You’ve Answered All Questions
Before replying to an email, read over the message to ensure you’ve covered all the questions. Being diligent about your responses shows you’re detail-oriented, and it cuts down on time-consuming back-and-forth messages.
This is good practice for all emails, but recruiters and hiring managers definitely take notice when candidates take the time to respond to all of their questions at once.
5. Be Thoughtful About Email Formatting
If you’ve ever received an email with a wall of text, you know how overwhelming it can be to read and how easy it is to overlook important information, so be mindful about your formatting.
Break your answers or questions into separate paragraphs, and give each action item its own line. Feel free to use bullet points where it makes sense. Your email should be easily scannable and all the key points should be noted through bolding and clear language.
6. Update the Subject Line as Necessary
During the hiring process, hiring managers, recruiters, and candidates alike are all inundated by emails. It’s easy for messages to slip through the cracks if they seem non-urgent or aren’t sure what the message is about.
If your email thread strays from its original topic, update the subject line so the recipient knows what to expect when they open the message. A current subject line also keeps your conversation top of mind, and it helps the other person focus in on your particular concerns.
7. Respond Quickly
Both the candidate’s and recruiter’s time is valuable, so be sure to reply to messages in a reasonably quick timeframe. Not only does this help both parties stay up to date, it also ensures that the search continues to gain momentum.
Candidates, if a recruiter asked you for a significant amount of information or to create a work sample, they know you’ll need more than a few hours to put that together. But when someone asks you to confirm a meeting time or sends over an easy-to-answer question, reply as soon as possible.
8. Find Out the Other Person’s Preferred Method of Communication
Once you begin working with someone, ask them how they prefer to be contacted, especially in time-sensitive situations. Email works great for initial introductions or sending lengthy documents, but it’s not always the best option when you need to get a hold of someone quickly.
Find out whether they’d prefer a text or phone call in those situations, and then use that method when necessary. They’ll appreciate that you’re being proactive and that you’re respecting their preferences.
9. Send a Post-Interview Thank You Note
Sending a thank you note after an interview, or to keep in touch with a recruiter, says a great deal about your conscientiousness and character. I don’t recommend using a standard template, though.
My number one piece of advice when writing a thank you note is to make it short and make it personal. If the note reads like the same one you use for all interviews, it’s almost meaningless. Express your genuine interest and write something that makes the recipient feel like you put some thought into it.
In as fast-paced a job market as ours is, etiquette and courtesy stand out. We’re all so accustomed to communicating via shorthand in text messages and quick Slack and Facebook messages, we can forget that professional emails require a very different approach. Writing thoughtful, detail-oriented emails will help you distinguish yourself and set the tone for future interactions.