How to Write Emails that Employers will Read

By Erin Coursey, iHire, LLC

In What Future Employers See in Your Email Address, you learned how to present yourself within an employer’s cluttered inbox. Now you just need to write the email itself! Here are some guidelines to help you craft a strong, appealing email that will make you stand out.


General Tips

  • Be short and sweet. The person reading your email probably has many more to review. Too much text may cause a busy reader to overlook your key points.
  • Proofread. Even though you are busy too, proofreading is a must. Watch for these issues:
    • Overly long sentences
    • Misspellings
    • Confusing or complicated grammar
    • Disorganized structure/ideas
  • Format carefully. 12-point standard font is always a good choice. Don’t use emoticons, multiple colors, or any graphics unless necessary.


Building Blocks

Use these pieces to form your own email. If you’re looking for advice on writing emails for specific occasions like networking or resigning, check out the resources linked at the bottom of this article.

Subject line: Give the specific purpose of your email in 6–8 words, such as “Dental Hygienist Job Application—John Doe.” An employer should be able to search and find your email based on its subject. Be careful that the subject doesn’t become a string of “RE: RE: RE:” when replying to previous messages.

Salutation: Address your email to the contact person listed in the job description. Use his/her title and last name, followed by a colon (e.g. Dear Mr. Smith:). If you’re unsure about something, call the company and ask. If that doesn’t work, try one of these solutions to common questions and concerns.

  • I can’t tell if the contact is a man or woman. Don’t guess! Forgo the “Mr.” or “Ms.” and use the contact’s full name.
  • I don’t know the contact’s name. As a last resort, you can address the email to “Dear Hiring Manager” or other relevant title. Make sure to tailor the body of your email to show that you did not just send the same email to hundreds of employers.
  • Can I use my contact’s first name? Only if s/he has invited you to do so.
  • My contact is a woman, but I don’t know if she’s married. Always address a woman as “Ms.” unless she asks you to use a different title.

Thank you (optional): If you have spoken with this person recently, thank them for their time. This is not just polite—it will also remind them who you are.

Purpose: Briefly and clearly state why you’re writing. For example, “I am applying for the Administrative Assistant position advertised on [Company]’s website.

Recommender (optional): Did a current employee at the company suggest that you apply for this position? Did a recruiter? Make sure to give the recommender’s full name for an extra leg up over the competition.

Attachments: List the additional documents you are sending with the email and offer to send them in a different format upon request. When naming attachments, use your name and the document type (e.g. John Doe Resume.pdf).

Closing/Expectations: Say that you are looking forward to further discussion. Specify a date when you will follow up if you have not received any further information regarding your application.

Signature: Block signatures should include your name, preferred phone number, and email address. Optionally, you may add your current job title/major or a link to your LinkedIn profile/online portfolio. Always double-check a signature sent from a mobile device. Regardless of your computer’s email settings, mobile devices might not automatically insert the right signature or could reformat it without warning.


Resources

Need more information on writing emails for specific circumstances? Check out one of these iHire resources:

 

Sources:

James M. Citrin— How to Write Emails That Will Land You a Job

Virginia Tech— Email Guidelines and Etiquette

Jenna Goudreau— How to Write the Perfect Email Subject Line for Job Hunting

Allison Jones— 13 Helpful Email Templates You Can Use While Job Searching


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