Every job candidate will trade emails with a potential future employer throughout the hiring process, whether you submit your application or a follow-up after an interview. Writing such emails reluctantly can ruin your chances of progressing since displaying professionalism in them is expected. When you’re being considered for a job, any missteps- using informal language in an email, taking too long to reply, or under-dressing for an interview- can lead employers to focus on other candidates.

Acting professionally in person will come naturally but using the correct language and format in an email to a potential employer can be difficult. Follow these tips:

The Subject Line

Don’t overthink the subject line. Keep it simple. If you’re asking a question about rescheduling an interview, it can be “Looking To Reschedule Interview.” If it’s a post-interview follow-up, “Interview Follow-Up.” The subject line doesn’t need to be a complete sentence or have perfect grammar, but every word should be capitalized, and it should convey what the email is about in less than five words.

The Greeting

There are many ways to greet someone in an email, leaving you between two minds regarding which greeting to use. You should use a greeting in almost every email you send.

For the first email you send to someone, use “Greetings” or “Dear Mr./Ms./Mrs. [last name].” Once you’ve gone back and forth a few times and developed a rapport, “Hi,” “Hello,” “Good morning/afternoon/evening,” or “Mr./Mrs. [last name]” work, too. If you are communicating with a woman and are unsure of her marital status, use “Ms.” If the person you are communicating with is a doctor, note that and use “Dr.”

The Body

In the first email you send someone, you should introduce yourself. State your name, your school, what grade you’re in (if you’re done with school, note you’re a graduate), and your line of study. Jumping into the purpose of your email before introducing yourself comes off as unprofessional. 

Next, establish a connection. If you were referenced to the email recipient by one of their coworkers, old colleague, or friends, note that. Making this mutual connection clear can help break the ice faster. Say where you found their contact information if you don’t have a shared connection.

Now, get to the point. The email should be more than just an introduction — at the very least, ask a question or write something that warrants a response. Break the body into several paragraphs rather than one blurb, making your message easier to read. 

Regardless of the context of the email, make sure you thank the recipient for their help or consideration, whatever you’re asking of them. They technically don’t owe you anything, so you should meet any form of assistance with your words of appreciation. 

Before you sign off and press the send button, re-read your email twice. Is all your language formal and professional? Are there any typos? Taking an extra minute to proofread is well worth it.

The Body

Like the greeting, there are many ways to sign off. If you say “thank you” in the paragraph before the sign-off, refrain from expressing it as the sign-off. Instead, use “Best,” “Sincerely,” or “Regards.” Then, list your name, email, phone number, and perhaps your title, links to your website or social media accounts, or pertinent information that fits in a sign-off.

Once you’ve written one, two, or five of these emails, the language and formatting become second nature. Remember, the person you’re contacting is a human being who appreciates gratitude and professionalism, especially when asking something of them. Follow these tips, use common sense, and turn these introductory emails into relationships, interviews, and, hopefully, a job offer.

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