Many employers allow applicants to apply for positions through email. This is a often a great option for jobseekers, as it avoids the many pitfalls of online application systems.
At the same time, email applications represent a different kind of danger. Your email application is the first point of contact with a prospective employer; if you don’t “nail it” with your email, there’s little opportunity to earn a second chance.
Before you press “Send” on the email, here are six rules you should follow.
1. Have a professional-sounding email address
Unless you’re looking for a job as a surf instructor, firstname.lastname@example.org isn’t going to impress prospective employers.
Your email address should clearly identify who you are; some variation of you first and last name is best. Not only is this more professional looking than a made-up avatar, it also helps employers keep track of your email correspondence.
2. Use a contemporary email service provider
Using an antiquated email service like @aol.com, @lycosmail.com, or even @yahoo.com and @hotmail.com, pegs you as someone who doesn’t stay up-to-date with technology.
The best free email service, at least in terms of professional branding, is Gmail. Any variation of FirstName-LastName@gmail.com will create a positive (or, at least neutral) impression on the employer who is opening your email. Plus, Gmail has an “Undo” button!
If possible, the absolute best practice is to have your own personalized email domain: FirstName@LastName.com. While this option does cost money, it positions you as someone who understands technology and the value of branding.
3. Don’t use your current work email address
This is a no-brainer, but something I’ve unfortunately seen applicants do.
Always use your personal email account when you apply for a job! Using a work email address creates a negative impression because it represents a misuse of your current employer’s time and resources. And, if you’re abusing your present company’s email service for personal benefit, why would a hiring manager think that you would behave any differently in the future?
4. Write a short, polite and direct email
When you prepare the email portion of your application, remember that HR departments and hiring managers are busy people, who are often overwhelmed with applications. As such, you want to be clear concise with your email introduction.
Unless otherwise indicated in the job description, the subject line of your email should be the title of the job to which you are applying. The body of the email should be formal, but direct. Address the message directly to the hiring manager. Introduce yourself and your interest in the position. Note that you have attached the documents specified in the job description. Close with a formal “ask” for an in-person interview. And make sure you include your contact information in your signature!
5. Convert your attachments into .PDF files
Most job applications will require you to attach a cover letter and resume. Often these documents are highly formatted, with customized layouts, fonts and settings. The safest way to ensure that a prospective gets your resume and cover letter in the proper format is to send those documents as .PDF files. Many word processing tools already have the option to save your work in the .PDF format. If your preferred software doesn’t have this functionality, there are free apps that provide this service.
6. Provide clear names for each attachment
Don’t send generic or cryptically named document to an prospective employer. Documents with names “Resume.pdf” or “bf012580193.pdf” are more likely to be flagged for spam or lost in the application review process.
Instead, clearly label each attachment with your last name and document type: “LastName_CoverLetter.pdf” or “LastName-Resume.pdf”. This makes it easier to keep all the components of your application together. It will also earn the good graces of hiring managers, who are sorting through dozens, or even hundreds, of applications for each position.