Guide: Writing Professional Emails during Job Search


October 26, 2021

Email is one of the most common ways of communicating with prospective employers during the graduate job search and application process. From reaching out to ask about a vacancy, applying for an opening, following up, to requesting updates, and replying to interview calls – your email etiquette helps you across various touchpoints. 


International students can find it especially tricky to navigate this professional space. You are in a new country, unfamiliar with the work culture and colloquialisms. At the same time, you are pressed for time, and you have to write reams of emails before you finally get a call back from hiring managers. 


So, how can you make sure that you leave a professional first impression through your email? Here are some best practices to help you stand out.


Pick a Clear Subject Line

In most cases, the subject line determines whether your email would be opened or remain unread. It is a way to capture attention and convey the purpose of your message, not an afterthought. Some of the golden rules are:

Craft a succinct subject within 6-8 words, which works for both web and mobile viewing.
Place the important words, in the beginning, to communicate clearly.
If the email requires an immediate response, include the word “urgent” but use it sparingly. 
Do not put the words in ALL CAPS. It is the equivalent of shouting over email.  

For instance, the subject line for a job application email can start with the words “Job application” followed by the Job Title, Job ID (if available), and your name: “Job Application—Project Manager, Job ID #225—John Doe”. If you have a referral, you could start with “Referred by Jane Doe” or “Referral from Jane Doe”.

Pay attention to the application instructions as some hiring managers require candidates to use a specific format for subject lines. 


Use an Appropriate Greeting

When writing outreach emails, personalisation goes a long way. Saying “Hello [Name]” is much better than beginning with just “Hi”. Moreover, when you are communicating with someone you don’t know so well, adding a formal salutation and an introduction always works in your favour. 


Consider this example:

Dear [First Name] [Last Name],

Greetings for the day. I have been following [Company Name] for a while. It is great to connect.


When cold mailing, try to Google the name of the person concerned and include it alongside the correct company name. If you can’t find it, go with “To Whom It May Concern”. 

You can skip the greeting altogether once you know your audience and are already involved in a chain of emails.


Formatting Makes a Difference

It is best to be concise in your email body as it demonstrates your respect for others’ time. But if you have to write a long email, bullet points, subheadings, and bold text are your friends. You can use formatting tools to break down the information, highlight the important details, showcasing clarity and structure.

If you have copied and pasted something in the email body, it may look different upon reaching the recipient. A simple way to avoid this: Select the text and click on “clear formatting” (the tool that looks like the letter Y with a backslash running through it). You can apply the chosen font style, size, etc. after this.


Sign Off Properly

Close the email with a suitable sign-off in keeping with the content and recipient. You can choose “Best Regards” or “Sincerely” and opt for less formal closings after sensing the tone of the initial exchange. You can also create a professional email signature that includes all your professional and contact information, links to your website, LinkedIn profile, etc.


Proofread Before Sending

Research studies indicate that emails with grammatical errors and spelling mistakes cause recruiters to perceive the writer as less conscientious, intelligent, and trustworthy. Proofreading the email before sending can save you from leaving such an impression or seeming too lazy. 

While you are at it, don’t forget to modify your text and mirror the tone of the person you are communicating with. It displays that you care and pay attention to detail. 


Don't Lose the Context

In the end, it boils down to context. What are you trying to achieve with the email? Who are you writing to? How well do you know them? How will the email be interpreted? Address all these questions before hitting send. 

Whether you are applying for graduate jobs, contract jobs, or other entry-level positions, you cannot escape emails. Once you find appropriate opportunities on Student Circus — that offer the right opportunities for international graduates — use your email skills o make your application stand out. 


Written by Arushi Sharma

Arushi is a research consultant and content curator based out of New Delhi, India. Her interests span education, youth skill development, and business sustainability management. Connect with her on LinkedIn or Twitter.

Photo by Solen Feyissa on Unsplash

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