The meat of your email message – what you include, and don’t include, in the actual content – requires careful consideration.
Think of an email message in the same way you would a snail-mailed job search (or business) letter. Always put yourself in the shoes of the recipient. If you’re emailing someone at one of your target companies, your message needs to position you as a good-fit candidate.
Write in a formal, professional manner, in complete sentences.
And I hope it goes without saying that the content needs to reinforce your personal brand and good-fit qualities for your target employers.
Don’t make these 6 content errors:
1. Not personalizing and customizing for each reader.
A salutation that reads “To Whom It May Concern” won’t do. Always personalize your greeting (“Dear Ms. Smith”). Demonstrate your professionalism and good manners by taking the time to identify an actual person to write to.
Don’t even consider blasting a mass mailing to groups of people who may hold your future in their hands. No matter how well done, people can always tell they’ve been impersonally shoved onto a list. Most everyone HATES getting these messages clogging their inboxes, and they’ll probably ignore or delete your message.
State briefly in the first paragraph your purpose for writing to this specific person – including the name of the company and the position (or type of position) you’re seeking. That first sentence can (and should) be jazzed up as a call-to-action, while still including pertinent information about the company and position.
2. Writing too informally.
Always demonstrate your professionalism and command of the English language in the body of your email message. You will be judged by how well you can communicate in writing.
Don’t use informal language (unless you know the email recipient very well), text-speak (BTW, LOL, etc.) and other acronyms. It may be okay to text – especially for a brief message as you get further along in communications with someone – but you’ll need to be extra careful to keep the content professional. Don’t text in the same way you would with a friend.
Spell out industry-specific acronyms. Don’t assume that the reader is an industry expert. They may not know what that acronym stands for.
3. Difficult to digest content.
Your email message needs to be easy to read and mobile-friendly.
Remember that many people reading your email message will be doing so on a very small screen. Keep the content to a total of 4-5 paragraphs. Include enough white space between paragraphs to make the content easy to read and draw the reader’s eye down the page. Keep each paragraph no longer than 4-5 lines. Use bullet points (no more than 3-4 total) to highlight standout points.
4. Grammatical errors and typos.
Don’t let these easily avoidable errors slip by. Having a solid command of the English language will be important for most any job you may be seeking. People can only assume that, if you can’t write well, you probably won’t speak well either.
So that you don’t accidentally send an email with mistakes, it would be wise to get onto a full-sized keyboard, open up a blank document page, and compose your message. Then you can easily review, spell check, and re-proof it several times before copying and pasting it into your email message, and send it.
5. Forgetting your branded email signature with the sign-off.
Close the message appropriately – “Sincerely”, “Thank you”, or “Regards” are a few acceptable ways to sign off.
Below the closing, your email signature is another opportunity to position yourself as a good-fit candidate. Along with your contact information, it should include a concise tagline describing what you do and who you do it for.
6. Attachment errors.
Don’t send more than one or two attachments in each email. These will typically be career documents (resume, biography, etc.). Make sure to name the documents appropriately, so that people can easily identify them later – “Everett, James, CIO resume”, if they’ve archived your email message.
For your safety, never include any sensitive information in attachments (or in an email message, for that matter) – Social Security number, date of birth, etc. Email messages and attachments have been known to be hijacked, and nefarious people can easily piece together enough information about you to steal your identity.
These things don’t belong in your job search documents anyway. If, at some point in the job search process, you must send sensitive information via email, use an encrypted PDF document.
More About Emailing and Executive Job Search
When Job Search Email Goes Missing
The Online Safety and Privacy Dilemma in Executive Job Search