Making a Good First Impression: Nailing the Professional "Niceties"
In the growing digital age of application portals and services like Indeed, navigating the once-common interactions with potential employers can be challenging. With such an impersonal process, how do we make the communication…personal? And, more importantly, professional?
Communications (whether formal or informal) are important next steps in getting the job you want—or, if handled improperly, can be missteps that keep you on the hunt even longer. Here are some tips on how to properly use a few of the most common modes of communication with potential employers.
Some career advertisements ask candidates to submit their résumés, cover letters, and other relevant attachments, such as writing samples, via email without completing an online job application. Because your email will be one of many, you’ll want it to stand out – and most certainly make sure your documents attach properly. Prospective employers are unlikely to ask you to resend attachments they cannot read or open. So, you’ll need to get it right the first time! Check, double-check, and triple-check if you have to in order to ensure they are all there.
You’ll also want to make sure you:
· Send your message from a professional email address. Your email handle should include some combination of your legal name. Handles that include nicknames or references to personal activities are inappropriate. Email addresses that reveal birthdates/years or other personal information should also be avoided.
EX: JohnSmith@mail.com or Smith_John@mail.com.
· Use a concise, specific subject line that contains your name and the position you’re hoping to fill. Keep the subject line simple—anything above 60 characters will likely be truncated and thus not quickly accessible to your recipient. It should tell your reader exactly who you are, what you are sending, and which position sparks your interest.
EX: Cover Letter: John Smith for Marketing Assistant
· Label your attachments simply and consistently. Like your subject line, your attachments should have short, clear labels, and each attachment should have its own separate file. This allows your recipient to easily see and read what you have sent and prevents you from sending large attachments, which may be flagged as spam by the company’s email server.
EX: John Smith Resume; John Smith Cover Letter for Company A
· Use .doc or .pdf formats. These formats are commonly used and will not alter the appearance of your original documents, making them easy to read.
· Include a cover letter in the body of your email. If the employer does not specifically request that you send your cover letter as an attachment, then use it as your email message. Be sure your letter is tailored to the position for which you are applying and that it is properly formatted – particularly if you use the copy/paste function to insert it into an email, which can alter fonts, colors, or other formatting.
Other times, you may be interested in working for a company, but that company has not posted any specific positions. In these cases, you might consider emailing a letter of interest to the company to show that you are a good fit for the organization and wish to be considered for open positions in the future. In this case, you’ll want to email your letter of interest to a specific individual, meaning you will need to know the name, position, and contact information of a hiring manager or department head. This keeps your message from entering a general mailbox where it may never be read and puts you on the radar of executives who make hiring decisions. Don’t forget: clearly state your motivations for seeking a position with the company and emphasize strengths and skills that align with a variety of potential jobs.
While some job postings specifically ask candidates not to call and inquire about positions, phone calls are sometimes an appropriate step in your job search. Calls can allow you the opportunity to check the status of an application or follow-up after an interview. Before picking up the phone, ask yourself the following questions:
· What does the job posting say about phone calls? If the advertisement says no phone calls, then it means no phone calls—going against this may make you appear too forward and will definitely depict you as someone who cannot or will not follow instructions. If phone calls are not mentioned, then you may consider calling about the position only after you have actually applied for it.
· Do I know to whom I should speak regarding the position? As with an interest letter, you’ll need the contact information of a specific staff member responsible for hiring for the position. Knowing this information shows initiative and prevents you from being caught in a loop of trying to reach the right person and leaving messages that may not be passed along.
· What am I going to say? Whether you reach a person or leave a message, you must be prepared. Rambling calls and voicemails that don’t focus on your purpose for calling and what you’ll bring to the company will only harm your chances of getting an interview.
· How much time has passed since I submitted my application or went for the interview? Hiring managers are very busy people likely receiving hundreds of applications for one position, so don’t make your call immediately after your first response to a job posting. Instead, waiting for one to two weeks is ideal. If you’ve had an interview, following up with a simple thank-you call or email the same day is appropriate. Most employers will advise you of when you can expect to hear from them regarding a decision or a second interview; as anxious as you may be, respect this timeline and wait until it and a few more days have passed before reaching out again.
Text Messages and IMs
If you think of text messages or instant messages (IMs) and imagine swiping through dating applications or teenagers secretly sending each other emojis during biology class, there’s a good reason: these are very informal modes of communication, and some people even consider them unprofessional. Only use them on the job hunt if, for some reason, your prospective employer reaches out to you via text message or IM first; and always keep your messages on the topic of the job. Just like your emails and their attachments, these messages should also remain formal, grammatically correct, and free of inappropriate language or graphics. When in doubt about texts or IMs, or when you have not been contacted via either of these methods, just avoid them.
Thinking of going “old school” and making an unannounced visit to drop-off your résumé in person? This may make you stand out among your competition, but not in a good way. Rather than demonstrating initiative, showing up to see a prospective employer without an appointment may show you’re not respectful of other people’s time – or worse, that you’re a nuisance. Further, because you’re likely to encounter a receptionist and not the person you want to see, your résumé probably won’t make it to its destination. Showing your credentials and your professionalism with a strong résumé and cover letter makes a much better impression.
Regardless of how you choose to reach out to a prospective employer, remember that the best tools to help you secure a new position are a custom résumé and cover letter detailing your experience and expertise. These professional documents generate interest in your unique abilities and encourage employers to reach out to you. The Writique can create these and other communications for you, including emails and web copy. Contact us today to get started!