Email etiquette tips

Yesterday’s Job and Internship Fair attracted more than 130 employers across a wide range of industries and disciplines. For AU students and alumni attending the fair, the chance to speak to a recruiter in person offered a valuable opportunity to ask questions, learn more about jobs and internships, and convey their relevant skills and experiences. Luckily, these interactions don’t have to end in Bender Arena. Following up with a thank you email after the fair is an important way to thank the recruiters for their time and maintain the new relationships formed yesterday afternoon.

With this in mind, here are some tips about effective email writing that might be useful for follow up messages and future interactions with employers:

Err on the side of formality.

Any email to an employer should have a coherent structure and professional tone. Be sure to address the message to the correct individual, and use their proper title (Dr., Mr., Ms., etc.). Starting an email with “Hey” or “Hi” is inappropriate; use “Dear” to convey a sense of professionalism and maturity. At the beginning of the message, clearly and briefly state why you are writing to create context for the reader. Use standard fonts (TNR, Arial, Calibri, etc.) and shy away from using all caps and colored lettering.

Keep the body concise and to the point.

No one likes a long email, and long paragraphs with run-on sentences are equally despised. Email messages should get to the point without extra “fluff.” Here are some tips:

  • Don’t “bury the lead.” Be clear about why you are writing as well as any questions or next steps for the recipient.
  • Never use 20 words when 10 will do.
  • Use no more than 4-5 lines per paragraph.
  • Focus each paragraph on one thought.
  • Use bullet points and other formatting techniques to provide a list of action items or other ideas.
  • Reference any attachments in the message. Give attachments appropriate, relevant names (for example, Jennifer_Student_Resume.docx)

Send a cover letter as an attachment.

If you are applying to a job or internship over email, attach your cover letter to the email instead of using your cover letter as the body of the message. Some offices save resumes and cover letters to a hard drive, and it creates more work for the recruiter to copy and paste the text of your email into a Word document and save it.

The subject line is just as important as the body of the email.

The subject line of your message should catch the reader’s attention and tell them why you’re writing. Never leave the subject line blank, and make sure that what you write is meaningful to the reader. Here are two good examples:

  • “Follow-Up: Informational Interview on January 14”
  • “Application for Position #43907”

Always check spelling and grammar.

When applying for a job or internship over email, the importance of proofreading your message cannot be overstated. Employers frequently tell us that they will not consider applicants who have spelling and/or grammatical errors in their materials. Consider asking a trusted friend to proofread the draft text of your email to catch any errors.