Debugging Your E-mail Communication

Debugging Your E-mail Communication

Communication can make or break a job search.  With so many emails being exchanged during a job search, we rarely take a step back to think about the effectiveness of our email communications.   Given the importance of clear and effective communication, it’s well worth every job seeker’s effort to think about their email usage and debug any glitches in this common form of communication.

Here is a story of a job search email snafu by a very senior-level executive at a major public technology company early in his career.  Having just finished his doctoral degree at an Ivy League school, Ed was ready to enter the workforce.  He was recruited by arguably the most prestige technology research institute in the country.  He flew in for a daylong interview and fell extremely optimistic about this great opportunity and everyone on the team.  He did what every sensible job seeker would do – send a “thank-you” email to the hiring manager for the interview – and was proud of his timely, professional follow-up.

A big surprise came when the hiring manager replied to Ed’s email, saying “We all enjoyed meeting you.  But now we’re not sure if you’re even interested in our position.”  Ed had to do major damage control by sending another email and following up with a phone call to explicitly express his excitement about this position and how he would love to work with everyone there.  Luckily, this time he got the message across and he was hired.

Here is another example of email communication blunder.  Recently, I read an email a job seeker sent to a new professional contact with whom she has only communicated a couple of times via email. The word choice in that email created a rude undertone although there was no reason to believe this job seeker had any intention of being abrasive to her new professional contact.  Phrases like “obviously,” “as I told you before,” or “as everyone should know” might give readers a different idea than the true message.

When we communicate via email, we should constantly think about:

  • Did I say what I wanted to say? Make a list of key points you’re trying to get across with your message.  Go over your email message with a critical eye against each point.  If you wanted to show confidence, does your message express conviction?  Words such as “maybe,” “perhaps” and “probably” should be avoided in this case.
  • Did I say what I didn’t mean to say? Check your message for possible hidden or alternative meanings.  In the case of the job seeker’s abrasive email, her reader got a completely different impression from her intended message because of her unfortunate word choice.  And if you unintentionally deliver a message that conflicts with what you really mean, you can seem misleading to people later on.

The best way to be a great email communicator is to be mindful with the two questions mentioned above.  Go over your email a couple of times before hitting that “send” button.  For very important emails, it’s a great idea to have a friend read it and help you catch any possible miscommunication.  When you have clear and effective email communication, it will be a powerful tool in your job search.



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