Deadly Email Job Search Mistakes

An email message can make or break your job search with a specific organization or person. Doing email well is required and assumed. Doing email poorly is often the kiss of death.

Email Don'ts

When you are sending email for your job search, avoid making these common mistakes:

1. Don't "blast" out the same message to many recipients at the same time.

It's easy and tempting to put all the names into the "TO:" field on your message. But, then, it will look like a "form letter" type of message and be discarded.

If you send the same message, at the same time, to multiple addressees at the same domain name, the email filtering software may assume that your message is either junk mail or a virus and discard it.

Personal messages, customized and sent to one addressee at a time, are the most effective.

2. Don't slip into informality.

Just because an email message is not printed out on letterhead, put into an envelope, and mailed using traditional methods doesn't mean it's any less important or formal. Treat email with the same kind of care you would treat traditional business correspondence -- don't send your first draft, proofread very carefully, use good spelling and grammar, etc.

3. Don't make these bad assumptions.

We all make assumptions about email that aren't really true. Here are some important things to keep in mind:

Email messages are clear. NO!

Email is not a "complete" communications medium.Your recipient cannot hear your voice or see your face. Are you smiling or snarling when you write "Thanks a lot"? They can only read your words. So be careful of the words you use, and, though they can occasionally be helpful, "emoticons" (or "smileys") are not usually appropriate in business email. Sorry (:-|)

  • Every email message is delivered. NO!

    Software monitors most email systems, attempting to separate the "good" email from the "junk." Sometimes a good message can look like a bad one and get deleted or filed in a folder that is seldom reviewed. This is a great excuse to call that hiring manager to see if s/he got your message!

  • Email is private. NO!

    The message you send to person A may be forwarded to persons B through Z who in turn forward it to their friends and/or associates. This can be good ("viral" in Internet speak) or bad. And, according to a recent study, the majority of medium to large employers retain (and may review) email messages sent by employees.

    Email is usually "discoverable" in a Court of law. Yes, you can probably (if you have enough money) find that email your ex-husband sent to his girlfriend BEFORE the divorce, even though he THINKS he deleted it off his home and/or office computers. It's probably still stored on a few computers in the Internet infrastructure somewhere.

  • Email is temporary. NO!

    Email messages can have an extremely long life. Anyone who receives your message may save it, either on paper or on their computer (or both). And, of course, messages are saved on individual computers and also forwarded to countless people, who may also save it. In addition, parts of the email infrastructure make and keep copies as back-up in case of technical problems (see the point above).

    The Email Golden Rule

    Avoid writing in an email anything you wouldn't be comfortable having your boss, parents, or anyone named in the message read on the front page of The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal.

    Failing to follow this "golden rule" cost the CEO of Sony her job when hackers released hundreds of her emails, including several that said very unflattering things about some stars and other important figures in that community/network. Don't make the same mistake.

    Remember the hackers if this "golden rule" doesn't otherwise seem relevant!

    More About Smart & Successful Job Search:

    Susan P. Joyce is president of NETability, Inc., and the editor and chief technology writer for and A veteran of the United States Marine Corps, Susan is also a visiting scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management. In addition to, Susan contributes to AOL Jobs, LinkedIn,,, and BrazenCareerist.

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