The Job Search

Professional Communication

A variety of business correspondence will be necessary during the job search. Most familiar are the cover letter and resume. Written communication will also be used when confirming an interview via e-mail or through a thank-you note sent after meeting a contact or following an appointment. Using correct grammar in writing an effective letter or e-mail is always required in the workplace. Demonstrating good writing skills during the job search is essential because potential employers will make an initial assessment of the candidate by how well they communicate in written format.

E-mail Etiquette

While some people believe e-mail can be more casual than a written letter, in fact, both should follow business correspondence rules. During the job search, be formal in an e-mail, such as using a capital “I” instead of “i,” and include punctuation. The job search is not the time to use emojis, such as the smiley face, or abbreviations people may not understand. Once in the workplace, there may be less formal guidelines to follow. However, until that is determined, it is wise to use a professional format.

E-mail Format

An e-mail should include:

  • A greeting, such as “Dear Mr. Johnson.” If one is not included, the message can be perceived as too casual or abrupt. Address the person correctly, i.e., if the recipient is a medical doctor or Ph.D., use “Dear Dr. Andrews.” When addressing a person who identifies as a woman, use “Ms.” to avoid bringing marital status into the correspondence (unless specifically asked to use “Miss” or “Mrs.”).
  • A brief and concise message. This is not the time to ramble or include more than the necessary information. The recipient may delete a message with more information than needed to express the point.
  • Proper spacing. Do not run paragraphs together.
  • A closing and signature. As in a letter, use “Best regards,” “Sincerely,” or “Thank you” along with the name. In the signature line – include all your contact information and send with each e-mail to insure ease for the recipient to contact you.
  • A relevant subject line. Helping the recipient understand the content of the e-mail by putting appropriate information in the subject line. When confirming a meeting date and time, the subject line could read, “Justin Davis Confirming Interview for 5/25/11 at 11:00 a.m.”
  • No grammatical or spelling errors. Proofread once, twice and then a third time. While most people occasionally make mistakes when sending e-mails at work, being error-free during the job search is critically important. Catch mistakes by reading each word in the e-mail and correcting all errors.
    • Use an online tool, but be aware that many spell-check programs don’t catch the wrong word being used if it is spelled correctly. A grammar and spell checker is a good alternative. Grammerly provides a service that includes both a spelling and grammar check.
    • Ask a family member or friend to proof the e-mail message for one last review. This person can also check the tone of the message to insure it would not be interpreted as unfriendly, aggressive or abrupt.

Professional E-mail Example

A concise and professional e-mail, confirming an appointment:

Subject Line: Justin Davis Confirming Interview for 5/25/11 at 11:00 a.m.1

Dear Ms. Anderson2,

Thank you for offering me an interview for the cybersecurity position at ABC Company on May 25, 2011, at 11:00 a.m.

I look forward to meeting with Dr. Johnson3.


Justin Davis5

1. Subject line lets recipient know what the purpose of the e-mail
2. A greeting is included to make the e-mail more professional and cordial
3. Include the name of the interviewer, if known
4. Always use a proper closing
5. Include contact information so recipient can get in touch easily

Common Mistakes

“thank you for offering me a interveiw for the cyber security position at ABC Company on May 25th at 11:00 a.m. BTW – in addition to copies of my resume, i will bring a research project report. See you them ☺”

Avoid these common e-mail mistakes:

  • Do not use unusual fonts that are difficult to read or use bright bold colors.
  • Do not hit “reply all” if it is unnecessary for everyone to receive the response.
  • Avoid using several exclamation marks!!!
  • Insure the content is easy to read, breaking up the text into short paragraphs. A business e-mail is similar to a letter for grammar and etiquette rules.
  • Don’t use ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. In e-mail, that is perceived as YELLING AT THEM.
  • Avoid using emojis, acronyms or jargon not commonly used or understood.
  • Compose a heading for the subject line that explains the content of the message.
  • If returning an e-mail, refer to the question or content in the e-mail you received. This could be accomplished by copying the question into the e-mail.
  • Proofread carefully. Read through the entire e-mail. Confirm proper grammar and punctuation. Insert the recipient’s email address at the end of the message to prevent your e-mail from being sent before you are finished.
  • If a person is distressed, phone calls resolve the problem better than e-mail. Direct communication provides better understanding of the situation. When hearing the tone of the words, the situation is more easily resolved.
  • Respond to important e-mails (from a customer/client or your boss) promptly. This does not mean several days, but rather within the business day (as much as possible). Within a few hours is exceptional. This does not refer to unsolicited sales calls, but requests for assistance or information. Even if the sender does not receive an answer, the acknowledgment that it is being reviewed is important. Let people know you’ve received their e-mails even if you cannot answer questions at that time. Provide a time when they can expect your response.

Thank-You Note Etiquette

It is essential to send a thank you note after each interview, including a phone interview. Employers have indicated that if there are two job candidates with equal rating after the interviews, the person sending the thank-you note is more likely to get the job. Writing a note demonstrates professional manners as well as interest in the position.

Quick Tips for What to Include

Send the thank you immediately (no later than 24 hours). If there was more than one person interviewing, each person should receive a thank you note.

Express appreciation to the interviewer and then use the following questions to determine other information to be added:

  • Which qualifications match what the interviewer desired? Reinforce those skills.
  • What was neglected during the interview? Talk about an experience or example highlighting skills the company needs.
  • What should have been highlighted or presented more appropriately? Rephrase an answer that pertains to the requirements of the job.

The thank-you note is another opportunity to promote skills and the ability to communicate effectively.

Thank-You Note Format

Opening Paragraph:

  • Thank the interviewer for the meeting
  • Express interest and enthusiasm about the job

Body Paragraphs:

  • Highlight qualifications/skills, using an example for suitability for the job
  • Mention an impressive qualification which was overlooked during the interview or restate an answer in better manner

Closing Paragraph:

  • Express appreciation again and your interest in hearing from the interviewer in the near future.

Follow the same format for written or e-mail thank you notes. For several examples and templates of thank you letters and notes, see: