Getting hired for a new job can feel like a battle sometimes, and email – your only chance to make a first impression – is also your only weapon. Here’s what you need to know.
Emails are your weapon in the competitive battlefield known as the job hunt. An email is your first impression with your employer, but it is also the first impression your competition has with your employer too. Learn by the words of the master of war himself, Sun Tzu.
“Now the general who wins a battle makes many calculations in his temple ere the battle is fought. The general who loses a battle makes but few calculations beforehand. Thus do many calculations lead to victory, and few calculations to defeat: how much more no calculation at all! It is by attention to this point that I can foresee who is likely to win or lose.”
—Sun Tzu’s Art of War, ss. 1.26: Laying Plans
Before you send out your first professional email to fight in this war, you must prepare as much as you can. You should learn why your email is ruining your chances at getting hired, how you can fix it, as well as how to put yourself ahead of the pack. Be a master on the job hunt battlefield. (Click here to tweet this bit of inspiration.)
Follow All Directions on the Job Posting
“…the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.” – Sun Tzu’s Art of War, ss. 4.2: Tactical Dispositions
Directions given in a job posting are meant to be followed. Use the directions given to you by the company because they are the best way to get hired. The company wants people who are cooperative, attentive, and intelligent. If you don’t follow the company’s instructions on their job post, you will only weed yourself out.
You should be reading all the requirements on the job posting and making sure your email follows every single requirement. Give yourself a fighting chance by using what the company has given you as their requirements. An employer sets out directions to make their job easier to find qualified candidates like you.
Spell Check, Grammar Check, and Double Check Everything You Send
“To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands…” – Sun Tzu’s Art of War, ss. 4.2: Tactical Dispositions
If you want to make sure your email isn’t tossed into the trash, don’t depend on your email platform, browsers, phone, or fancy word processor to catch your mistakes. If autocorrect was always reliable and accurate, would there be a site for autocorrect failures? Ducking autocorrect.
You are the one who is responsible for making sure you take the time to read and re-read what you have written. When a recruiter sees that you have made a glaringly painful and stupid mistake, your recruiter will just discard your email. Don’t seem thoughtless and careless. Double check your emails for spelling, grammar, and content.
Be Clear and Concise in Your Communications
“When the general is weak and without authority; when his orders are not clear and distinct…” – Sun Tzu’s Art of War, ss. 10.18: Terrain
You, the general, and your words are weak and without authority when your communication is not clear and concise. When sending out an email, make sure what your write in your email is free of industry jargon, slang, text speak, shorthand, emoticons, excessive capitalization, and excessive punctuation. To prevent misunderstandings and increase the ease in which your email can be understood, refrain from using informal, vernacular, or complex language to leave the best possible impression on your future and potential employer. You don’t want to look like any of these people to a future employer.
Maintain a Professional Appearance: Use a Professional Email Address
“If equally matched, we can offer battle; if slightly inferior in numbers, we can avoid the enemy; if quite unequal in every way, we can flee from him.” – Sun Tzu’s Art of War, ss. 3.9: Attack by Stratagem
To apply for a professional position to a recruiter with a professional email, you too should become a professional with a professional email. Your email is one of the first impressions you can leave to a potential employer. Be sure that your email comes from a reputable and trusted email provider such as Google, and be sure your email consists of a combination of your first name and last name such as [email protected] or [email protected]
By having a professional email address, you stand to be equally matched with your employer. If your email address consists of your first name and last name but comes from a less reputable domain, change it. If your email address has a cool or funny nickname but comes from a trusted domain, change it. Avoid sending an email until you are equally matched with your employer. In order to get hired, don’t appear unprofessional before your prospective employer.
Hone Your Email Writing Etiquette
“The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy’s not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him; not on the chance of his not attacking, but rather on the fact that we have made our position unassailable.” – Sun Tzu’s Art of War, ss. 8.11: Variation in Tactics
There is no magic formula for a writing the perfect email to an employer. Even if you managed to find a template, it does not mean that you can effectively write emails in the future when you are employed by said company. Always work on your writing skills and email etiquette. Learn to use formal and professional writing conventions such as formal salutations and closings. The best offense is a good defense.
Learn what the difference between BCC (Blind Carbon Copy) and CC (Carbon Copy) is, and learn that you should never BCC or CC a set of prospective employers. By learning that you should email each employer separately with a unique email, you have increased your own readiness to send out a professional email and increased your chances of getting a job.
Sun Tzu emphasizes that you should continually improve yourself and always prepare yourself for battle. That means you should always brush up on your email writing etiquette as well as make sure the emails you send out are proofread, double-checked for recipients, and professional.
You should understand that carelessness, ill-preparation, and lack of understanding ruin your chances of getting a job. Since you now understand what is ruining your job chances, you can change your habits and improve yourself. Learn and understand the principles and ideas behind what makes a professional email and the conventions of a professional email but do not be bound by the rules you have learned.
Taylor Wright is a freelance writer based in Dallas. She covers a variety of topics such as travel, business communications, and technology.