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Students, job seekers and anyone pitching anything, listen up.

My brother, Josh, and I were discussing emails yesterday. I know, our lives are super exciting, right? Seriously though, we were talking about how easy it is to mess up a first impression in the written form, specifically via email. Anyone who knows Josh and I will agree that we’re fairly easy going, but there are some standards that are a little too low to accept, even for us. And boy, have we encountered some doozies over the past ten years! He works in a different field than I, but the mistakes made (or in many cases, laziness) by those sending emails is similar across all industries these days. Whether you are applying for a job, internship or work experience; or you are corresponding with teachers and lecturers, recruitment companies, a potential client, business associate or promotional partner, first impressions count, even on email!

Here’s 5 tips on how to get on the right side of the receiving end.

The 5 rules of email first impressions

1. Salutations

Don’t be arrogant and assume use of first names or “Miss”, “Mrs” etc. Do your research. Find out what they like to be addressed as. If you are approaching a lecturer at university, for example, don’t simply whip out a, “Dear Mrs Anderson,” when she is actually “Dr Anderson”. Doing some research so that you can address someone appropriately shows respect. Due to texting and social media we tend to be very blasé now and err towards the use of informal language, but good old fashioned manners and respect will get you much further in the end (and it never hurt anyone); at least until you know the person better.

2. Play at the level you aspire to

Triple check simple things − spelling! Let me repeat − spelling! On that note, assuming you’re corresponding in English, if you’re in Australia, do not let Americanised versions of words slip through (“z” in words instead of “s”, “color” instead of “colour” and so on). By the same token, if you are addressing an American audience, ensure your spelling is appropriate (i.e. not British English variations). It takes two seconds to check options on Google, so don’t be lazy, just do it. Additionally, if your unsure of grammar or which words to use, check them. For example, what would I have lost “first impression points” for in the previous sentence?

Check the details − is their name spelled correctly, have you included all relevant reference items regarding the subject of the email; are places, dates, locations all relevant and correct?

3. Read instructions

Do some research before you approach people via email. Are there guidelines listed on a website or handbook you’ve received? Is there a process you should be following in order to be well received?

4. Structure

Does your subject line makes sense? Is it to the point or does it sound spammy? Remember, most people receive in excess of 100 emails per day now (700 in my case), that’s not to mention all the social media alerts that also pop up on our screens. If your subject line is irrelevant, includes errors or isn’t going to catch the recipient’s attention, you can forget about your correspondence being read.

Ensure your email is succinct (general rule of thumb is it should not be longer than three paragraphs), polite and professional. Use your words too, not slang or text speak. “Gonna”, “BTW” and “MSG” are not appropriate in an email where you need to make a positive first impression or where you do not know the recipient well. Check sentence structure and ensure capitalisation is appropriate and not under/over done .

Finally, do not send 20mb attachments unless you are invited to. It’s frustrating. Your resume or portfolio may rock, but it will be deleted in annoyance and never considered if you clog up a busy person’s inbox. Check it before pressing ‘send’, or be polite and ask first.

5. Don’t be a time waster

In the first place, are you approaching the correct person in the organisation? If you are pitching a story to a magazine, do not email the sales manager, email the editor. Similarly, if you are raising an issue with a teacher or lecturer, do not email the department administrator. Do your homework, discover the details of the person who you need to liaise with directly, and pursue accordingly. Why should busy employees and managers have to pass your email from person to person before it arrives in the inbox it should have gone to in the first place? By this time, you will have annoyed a number of people, if not lost your chance altogether at making a great first impression.

Always sign off with appropriate contact details − do not make the receiver hunt around in files or past emails for your phone number or point of reference. Make life easy for the recipient, and you will be well received.

What issues have you encountered regarding email correspondence? I’d love your thoughts/comments/advice on the rules of email first impressions − please do drop us a line in the comments below. 

By Sarah Blinco.


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