Email Ettiquette, Communication Skills, Written Communication, Work Relations, Professionalism
SKILLS DEVELOPMENT / 14 December 2016
What Your Emails Say About You
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Gisel Malek
Content Marketer

Remember the days when you were taught in school how to compose an email? You learned that it was supposed to begin with “Dear Jill,” have written bodies, be void of grammatical errors, and conclude with an ending like “Sincerely.” But what about the few selected words used to let your reader know what the email is about, otherwise known as the subject line? 

It’s no secret that email writing has gotten further and further away from this. Recruiters and professionals complain about the lack of professionalism among the younger generation. So many articles are written about how recruiters may need to adapt to the new way college students and young professionals communicate, but even more seem to disagree, thinking it should be the other way around.

 Growing up with social media at our fingertips, shorthand has become the new norm. However, email is the primary and preferred method of communicating with business professionals, the key word here being “professionals.” According to an email statistic report performed by a tech research firm in Palo Alto: “As of 2013, business email accounts total 929 million mailboxes. This figure is expected to grow at an average annual growth rate of about 5 percent over the next four years, and reach over 1.1 billion by the end of 2017.”  It is incredibly important to develop good “netiquette” which is simply etiquette for the Internet. 

When sending emails to recruiters or anyone you are trying to make a professional connection with, imagine that your emails are an extension of who you are. Your reputation with the person you are emailing lies in how your emails are conducted. 

We asked around the office asking which of our professionals have received some poorly worded emails, and the responses were astounding. 

Here are a couple of examples of responses we have received: 

This one is from someone applying to be an intern in response to us asking if they were still interested in the position.

 "Yo, I’m down!" 

This is an email from someone who was interested in ProSky and was supposed to return a call but never did. 

"I am no longer available to do a project" 

These are, of course, extreme cases, but the problem lies in that lines have been blurred between tweeting, commenting, posting and emailing. Somewhere over the course of the last decade, professionalism seems to have been lost. Many Generation Xers hold managerial positions in recruiting and make their decisions based on first impressions, so it is important to be able to communicate effectively with them if you want to ensure a chance at landing that dream job

Here are some best practices to make sure you stand out among your peers and prove you have developed those “effective communication skills” you claim on your resume:

1. “Hello, how are you?”

Everyone has heard Adele’s song, and even she began her hit single with a salutation!

It doesn’t matter if it’s a reaching-out-email, or the third one in your thread, it is incredibly important to include salutations. People may not always remember who they are dealing with, especially if their inbox is flooded with new emails daily, so it is considered good form to include your name and theirs in every email. There are some cases where you may skip this step, but that usually happens after a relationship has already been developed. For instance, you may be in a long email thread with a recruiter, deep into the application process and you find their emails are more casual, it is not considered bad form to match their tone. Also, if you have a more personal relationship with the person you are emailing, it is OK to be more casual with them, obviously. I always try to match the tone of the person I am emailing. Start-ups are more lax, but also notice and expect professionalism. So, you may drop the name sooner than if for instance, you are applying for an accounting job at Goldman Sachs. 

Email conversations are another instance where you may drop the name. If your email turns into a constant back and forth with multiple responses, it’s safe to assume that you are having more of a conversation at that point and more quick responses are appropriate. If you are not sure or do not feel comfortable with dropping their name, go ahead and include it. It’s better to be formal than informal when it comes to professional emails. 

2. Don’t yell at me!

You shouldn’t be yelling in your professional emails, but unless you are yelling, refrain from using exclamation marks! See? It wasn’t necessary to use just now, a simple period would suffice. A lot of times, and especially with emoticons’ increased popularity, we are afraid of losing tone and personality in the text. However, it is important to remember that email correspondence can last forever, so while you are writing your message in the heat of the moment, that message can get deleted on your end, but might not be deleted on their end. Keep in mind what you are saying at all times and be mindful of your punctuation choices. A good rule of thumb would be to go back and read it after you have written a draft and determine if you still want to use it or not.    

3. “Yo” is pretty much never appropriate to use in a professional email. Ever.

Refrain from using one liners, jargon, or slang. “OK” and “Thanks” are words that may come naturally to your mind, but using them in emails prevents the conversation from flowing or advancing. Additionally, using “4” in place of “for”  or “yea” in lieu of “yes” is never a good idea. These do not make you seem more technologically savvy; instead, recruiters will find you less than professional.  

4. So, what’s this all about?

Always include a subject line that tells the reader what they will be reading about. Refrain from opening old emails, responding and sending a new message outside of that thread with no subject line. It’s not just a way to organize your inbox, but it shows your recipient that you have good email etiquette and if you want to impress further, change the subject line as the topics change within the thread. This shows that you are highly organized and savvy with email writing -  definitely a good way to make a great impression before you can meet face to face. 

5. Show some confidence!

It can be intimidating to communicate through email when you are at the mercy of the recruiter to give you a job. If you exude confidence, you will be taken more seriously, and this can all be conveyed through emails! Sometimes the language we use isn’t as direct as it can be. For instance, when we really mean to ask someone to do something or if we want some questions answered, we dance around the language and tend to be more polite and even apologetic instead of getting to the point and being straightforward. Read this study entitled, “Why Women Apologize More Than Men: Gender Differences in Thresholds for Perceiving Offensive Behavior,” to learn how researcher Karina Schumann decided that women say “sorry” more often than men do because they believe that more actions warrant an apology. Avoid apologizing when you need something from someone or if you need a quick response from somebody, you have not yet offended anyone. Business communication is meant to be to the point, short and sweet. The most effective way to communicate with someone professionally (or personally) is to be as clear as possible with what the goals are, what is asked of us or anything else that may be unclear.

6. Batman shouldn’t be the only one with a “Sidekick”

No, I am not talking about T-mobile’s keyboard phone from a decade ago! I am talking about HubSpot's Chrome extension app that allows you to track your emails. If you don’t have this installed on your PC, you probably should. Or something similar to it. Whenever you send out an email, you can see when it gets opened and how many times. If you have any links attached to your email, you are able to see if those get opened as well. This technology prevents you from ripping your hair out wondering what is happening on the other side of the send button. You are left in the driver’s seat, strategically planning your next move. This knowledge can help your plan your next email or move in general. 

7. I will not dignify that with a response!

Responding to emails is the most important etiquette to have. Too many people leave business people without responses. Whether they believe the email didn’t require a response or simply forgot and delayed their response beyond a reasonable length of time, lack of response is the quickest way to fall off a recruiter’s radar. If you are not sure whether you should respond or not, respond. It is always better to give more than less, especially when you are trying to impress recruiters or potential people you want to be working for. In addition to responding, leave your message (if you do not expect to be communicating again for a while) on a positive note, like “Looking forward to meeting up again, let’s stay in touch.” Responding in a timely manner is another important thing to consider. 24 - 48 hours is an acceptable amount of time to wait before you respond, or to await a response. Unless you are in a situation where you respond to emergencies, you should not have to respond immediately. 

When it comes to communicating with emails, remember that you might be behind a screen and not face-to-face, but the very first impression that recruiters and hiring managers will have of you is through email communication. You wouldn’t show up to an in-person interview wearing ripped jeans and flip flops, so make sure your emails don’t say that about you as well.

To learn more about developing other in-demand soft skills that companies are looking for, check out our post on interpersonal skills! Or take a training course like social media marketing to better hone your online interpersonal skills. Develop your soft skills the ProSky way by signing up for your free candidate profile today!