E-mail Etiquette: How to keep your online application from being deleted

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A week ago I read an article that talked about the unconscious way we judge someone based on how they write. Research shows that when your emails and text messages are full of errors, the person on the other side will view you as “less conscientious, intelligent and trustworthy”. This is especially true if you are emailing someone for the first few times without having met them in person.

Last post we wrote about looking for your first job in Canada. In detail we talked about communication and how important it is not only to be able to say what you need to say in a clear, concise way but also to be able to respond to someone else’s nonverbal signals. You can read more about that here. In this post we will focus on emailing, because as you read above, your on screen first impression makes a difference.

1. Before you start

It is helpful to set up a professional email account. Doing it this way can serve as a reminder so that whenever you log into this account, you are wearing your “professional hat” and will keep you in that mind space of “I am interacting with employers and other professionals”.

Choose an appropriate user name. Example: firstname_lastname@gmail.com rather than supersoccerplayer@gmail.com. Type your name correctly in your profile using proper capitalization. This is the second thing an employer sees after the subject line. Remember that we want to avoid looking “less conscientious and intelligent” from the very beginning.

2. What to say and when to send

Most job ads give clear instructions for the best way to apply. If an employer does not point you to their website, they encourage you to send an email directly. Here are some guidelines to help you out:

  • In the subject line you can write something along the lines of “Production Assistant Position // Your Name”. Notice the use of proper capitalization.
  • Use the body of the email for your cover letter. Write the name of a specific person if you can, triple checking that you have the correct spelling.
  • Make sure you highlight your qualifications, along with specific examples, but keep it clear and short.
  • If the job ad does not specify either a closing date or a time frame for when candidates will be contacted for interviews, write a date for when you will follow up. Set the date for two weeks after you apply at the earliest and follow through. You want to establish as early as possible that you are reliable.
  • Include a signature. It formally ends the email and serves as a quick reference for your name and contact information. It can look something like this:
FirstName LastName
Email Address
  • Double and triple check everything from the subject line to your signature. Remember that proper nouns (people’s names, company’s name, places) need to be capitalized and spelling and grammatical mistakes should be corrected. If possible, have someone else read your email too.

If you are applying through your network, do not assume an introduction made by your network is enough. As soon as the bridge is built, cross it. Jump in and introduce yourself. Show them you are excited for the opportunity and ask them what they would like to see from you in order to move your application forward.

3. Following up

Unless the job ad says otherwise, it is okay to follow up on an application. Do this via email two weeks after you send your application using the same subject line of your name and the position. Keep the message brief and polite and give them a clear reason why you think you are a great candidate, but do not retype your cover letter.

If you are following up after an interview, you can send the following emails:

  • A “thank you” email immediately after the interview.
  • A “follow up” if you have not heard from the employer after a couple of weeks. Remind the employer of your qualifications while still keeping it concise.

Keep the best practices from the previous point handy to guide you. Always keep it short, keep it clear and keep it free of any spelling and grammatical errors. These emails are an employer’s window to you as an employee so take the time to read through them before sending. If they give you a task with a date attached, or if you give them a date for your next communication, make sure it is done by that date if not before. You will come across as more intelligent, reliable and competent, and even if you do not get the job this time, an employer is more likely to remember you for the next time.

Author: Nelsa Uson, Employer Liaison

As an Employer Liaison at OFE, Nelsa builds relationships to better serve the OFE community of Employer Partners and Job Seekers. She brings the job leads to our Job Seekers and connects the Job Seekers with the Employers. 

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Stay up-to-date on topics that can boost your career, give you a fresh perspective on job searching, and help you meet your goals faster.


Stay up-to-date on topics that can boost your career, give you a fresh perspective on job searching, and help you meet your goals faster.