5 Email Mistakes That Can Cost You a Job

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

Your first impression is vital when applying for a job. And when your initial contact with a future employer is through email, it’s even more important to get the right message across on the first try. You’ll have to do your best to ensure each word helps your value shine through. Email is an efficient way to send job application materials, but improper use of digital communication can be a sure way to derail meaningful career advancement. Here are five mistakes you must avoid if you want to get the job.


1. Ignoring company culture

When applying for a job, the tone of your email should match the culture of the company. Do your research before sending out your message. The wrong tone could leave a very bad impression.

“If you don’t consciously insert tone into an email, a kind of universal default tone won’t automatically be conveyed. Instead, the message written without regard to tone becomes a blank screen onto which the reader projects his own fears, prejudices, and anxieties,” warned David Shipley and Will Schwalbe in Send: Why People Email So Badly and How to Do it Better.

If you happen to know someone who works at the company, ask him or her what the culture is like and what an appropriate email tone would be. Have a list of questions ready. For example, does the hiring manager prefer to be addressed by his last name or is everyone on a first-name basis? Is it OK for messages to be lighthearted and informal or is everyone very formal in their email communications? Are managers open to receiving attachments or do they like to have documents pasted in the body of the email? Make sure you get answers to these questions before you craft your message.


2. Using a vague subject line

Take the time to make sure your subject line is specific. A vague subject line shows lack of effort and could possibly make the hiring manager think your message is spam. Dedicate some time to writing a subject line that refers to the specific job you are applying for.

“Make the subject line summarize the body of the email. Ask yourself, ‘will the recipient(s) know what this email is about?’ For example, instead of ‘Subject: Exam,’ say ‘Subject: Location of 1508INT Exam, July 23, 2014,” said David Tuffley in Email Etiquette: Netiquette for the Information Age.

3. Following up too soon

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Give the hiring manager time to respond. The last thing you want is to appear too eager. One way you come off as an eager beaver is when you send a follow-up email before the week is even over. If you were given a date by which you should hear back with a decision, respect the date given. If it’s one or two days past that date, don’t panic. Human resources departments are busy and have hundreds of other candidates to review before they get back to you. In addition, hiring timelines and budgets can and do change. Be patient.


4. Asking a recent hire to “put in a good word”

Unless you know for a fact that the managers at an acquaintance or colleague’s new job has asked for referrals, you should refrain from sending an email like this. Give him or her time to get established at the new job and build rapport with the team. Asking someone who just started a new job to help you out is rude. Give him or her a chance to settle in first. If you really feel the urge to send this type of email, go ahead and type out your request and then save the message in drafts. Send the email after your colleague has completed his or her probationary period. Don’t make networking all about you.


5. Not checking for spelling and grammar errors

This one is pretty obvious, but it’s an email sin committed far too often. Sure, you’re excited to have an opportunity to apply for your dream job, but you should take time to thoroughly check for errors. Don’t let your excitement—or your fear that the job will be grabbed up if you don’t act fast—cost you a shot at getting called in for an interview.

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