A recent survey found that over a third of HR professionals have visited social networking sitesto look for information about employment candidates. Personal info and videos posted on Facebook, Twitter, YouTubeand other sites are now considered fair game when employers conduct “background checks” on job seekers. With concerns about office security, employee theft and malicious behavior on the rise, companies want to learn as much as they can about the character of a job seeker, in addition to their capabilities on-the-job.
However, this assessment isn’t limited to social media, but also applies to every interaction you have with a company online. To put it another way, your evaluation begins with the first email you send, and continues through every communication you have with HR and the company as a whole. From an employer’s perspective, you are what you write.
This has been true for years, as employers have long judged job applicants by evaluating their resume, cover letterand other interactions with HR. But with the increased frequency and casual nature of online interaction, it’s far easier for job seekers to get trapped into careless – and potentially damaging – mistakes. So to help make sure you always write at your best, follow these three simple rules for how to email a prospective employer:
Rule 1: Be Business-Like in Employment-Related E-Mail
Always assume that all online correspondence you have with an employer is of a business nature. Email may be a casual medium, but trying to get a job is a serious activity, and should be treated that way.
- Also follow HR’s lead on whether to use a first or last name in your greeting.
Rule 2: Watch Your Tone
The tone of online communication can be easily misunderstood. In fact, one study found that nearly 50% of all emails imply an unintended (and potentially harmful) tone. How does that happen?
- Stay away from ambiguity.
Rule 3: Represent Yourself Well in Your Writing
Job seekers often make a bad impression by failing to pay enough attention to their correspondence. Carefully compose every message, and then proofread what you’ve written even more carefully before hitting send.
- Employers don’t like bad punctuation, grammatical errors and misspellings.
No one believes that a resume fully conveys all of your potential value to a company. It is, however, the key to the front door. If your resume doesn’t open the door and get you invited in for an interview, you’ll never have a chance to expand on what you’ve written.
The same is true with your online communication. Even the shortest, seemingly insignificant email between you and HR becomes a part of your record. In fact, in some cases these can have more impact on your evaluation than your cover letter and resume. Since emails are typically less formal, employers see them as a candid snapshot of who you are – and potentially how you will act as an employee.
Does that make them more important than your resume? Of course not. Your resume tells an employer what you can do. Your online messages, however, tell them who you are. And in a highly-competitive job market, how you handle emails and what you post online can mean the difference between a job offer and a rejection letter.