Forté Foundation
Career Lab Virtual Campus

Professional Email-Writing

By Siyu Wu

April 3, 2017

Many argue that a major gap in communication style between job-seeking millennials and typically more conservative recruiters has formed. In this age where email is typically the main form of communication, especially between firms and potential hires, email etiquette has become increasingly important. To bridge this gap, it is necessary for students to be aware of common pitfalls when it comes to writing emails to professionals at firms. To help overcome such pitfalls, here are six tips for writing the perfect email: 

Do your research

Yes, even for an email, you need to do your research! If it’ s a cold email to someone you’ve never emailed, make sure to check out the person’ s LinkedIn – knowing a bit about their background can help you craft a more personal email. If it’ s a follow up email to someone you’ve spoken with before, take time to refer back to your previous conversations – this can help connect the dots and strengthen the individual’s impression of you. 

Construct a strong subject line

The subject line is essentially a “first impression” in email-writing, making it one of the most important components of your email! It needs to be specific: a subject line that’s too long or too vague will be easily overlooked. The subject line also should be actionable: if possible, give the person some idea of what you’re requesting in the email. At the most fundamental level, ensure the subject line is correctly capitalized and spelled. A poorly written subject line is an easy reason for the recipient to delete the email without even opening it!

Be concise and to the point

Recruiters and other people at firms are very busy and often receive hundreds of emails a day. The chances that someone will read an essay-length email, then, is very unlikely. Follow-up emails typically should be 3-4 sentences while introduction emails can be a few sentences longer. Use these few sentences wisely – briefly introduce yourself (school, major, year), clearly state your connection to the person (if applicable), and explain what you are looking for. 

Soften your tone

Remember that you’ re asking someone else to take time out of their busy day to respond to your email, and be gracious with how you word your requests. Rather than using direct language or imperative statements, use phrases such as “I would greatly appreciate…”.

Double check and check again

You should proofread your email at least twice to ensure there are no grammatical mistakes, spelling errors, or poorly worded sentences. Even the smallest typo appears unprofessional – it suggests that you lack attention to detail, which is a characteristic many recruiters value when finding the ideal job candidate. 

Have a consistent email signature

Having an email signature may not seem like a big deal, but it is in fact an important source of contact information for the person receiving your email. Be sure to include: your full name, major, university, class year, email address, and phone number. Formatting should be simple and straightforward – bells and whistles not only seem unprofessional but also distract from the main message! 

For example:
Siyu Wu
Department of Economics Princeton University ‘18
Email Address
Phone Number

Though many of the above tips may seem obvious or overly simple, it is these small differences that set some job candidates apart from the crowd. Conveying a professional feel through both personal and email interactions leaves a lasting positive impression that can take you far as you begin your career.

Siyu Wu is from Colorado and attends Princeton University, pursuing a degree in Economics and certificates in Finance and East Asian Studies. Siyu will graduate in 2018. She hopes to synthesize her interest in China and East Asia with her passion for finance to eventually work in a career related to international finance and Asian capital markets.

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