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Email Etiquette

ALL résumés are now emailed to the potential employer or to the third party recruiter conducting a specific search. Gone is the time when a job seeker would fax or snail mail his/her résumé in reply to a job posting. Companies and search firms utilize “Applicant Tracking Systems” to retain résumés. ATSs preserve résumés as single Word files.

Most job applicants are well intentioned and aim to please an overworked human resources professional or headhunter. However, they rarely look at the process from the other side, and, therefore, inadvertently commit goofs that disadvantage them in the selection process. Here are a few helpful hints that will maximize your chances of breaking through the résumé email clutter.

  • Always email your résumé as a SINGLE Word file. Put your name in the subject line and your thoughtful cover letter in the body of the email. Always name the file with your name, last name first and date. For example: “Jones, Mary .doc”. Never label your résumé “Résumé.doc” or “Revised Résumé.doc” or “My Résumé.doc”, etc. Why should the recipient have to rename the file? As Applicant Tracking Systems are integral to how both in-house and third party recruiters operate, résumés which aren’t compatible with them are usually deleted.

  • Put your cover letter in the opening email message. Do not attach it as a separate document. Absolutely customize it for each specific posting or job description.

  • Generic cover letters demonstrate that you've got a shotgun approach and that you indiscriminately answer boatloads of postings rather than being selective. Prove to the HR pro or recruiter that you are seriously enough interested in his/her company to use a proper salutation and reference the name of the company and the job in the cover letter.

  • Again, always email the résumé as a SINGLE Word file. Don't zip it, don't send it as a text or read-only file, don't send pictures or incorporate visual elements. PDF’s are sometimes OK to use, but certainly not a recruiter’s first choice as she cannot put her electronic signature on it when forwarding the résumé to a client company. Art Directors and Copywriters should put a link to their online portfolio at the top of their résumé.

  • Never instruct the recruiter to go to your website or to Linked In to view your résumé. We need a conventional, reverse chronological (not a “functional” format) bullet-format résumé. Linked In is not a substitute for a résumé.

  • Finally, don't attempt to have ongoing or lengthy email conversations with your recruiter. Use the telephone. We need to hear your grammar, your diction and your oral presentation. And never cancel an interview at the very last moment by email.

If you demonstrate good judgment and common sense when emailing your résumé to prospective employers and recruiters, you will stand out from the masses who don't. Doors will open wide for you. Good Luck!


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