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Article by Mohan Babu


Title: The basic etiquette of e-mailing résumés

We still have a long way to go before we learn the basic e-mail etiquette of applying for jobs, says MOHAN BABU. Most job seekers are so busy beefing up their bio-data that they do not really pay attention to some of these basic best practices of sending e-mailed résumés

A few weeks ago I received a mail from an irate friend of mine who was having a bad hair day because of the endless résumés he had to screen through while helping his company look for suitable candidates in response to an advertisement in a newspaper. His mail went on to describe how his company had placed a very specific advertisement in the paper asking candidates to respond to various categories of job profiles—programmers, architects, project managers, etc, the company was looking for.

The advertisement clearly mentioned that the candidates were to have the following in the subject of the e-mail: “Area of expertise, preferred location of interview, years of experience, technology.” Even with such clear instructions, apparently over half of the candidates responded with the following in the subject. “Area of expertise, preferred location of interview, years of experience, technology.” How dumb, or careless can one be, my friend asked in his mail? If a candidate is unable to read a simple advertisement and respond intelligently, an incorrectly drafted e-mail alone should be grounds for disqualification, he added. I couldn’t agree more.

A few years ago, during the height of tech-boom, when I was assisting my company in Colorado with one such résumé screening exercise, I watched with horror as the HR manager mercilessly tossed away a résumé of an otherwise perfect, technically competent candidate because he had misspelled the company (our company’s) name. While this may be an extreme case of screening, in today’s tight job market, one would expect candidates to use every tactic to stand head-and-shoulder above their peers. However, from my friend’s mail, I gather that we still have a long way to go before we learn the basic e-mail etiquette of applying for jobs. This, even though most techies of our generation are expected to be extremely comfortable in the use of e-mail and Internet technologies.

Candidates, especially Web savvy techies, do not lack in guidelines for posting their résumés and profiles using e-mails. For instance,, a premier site that contains interesting articles for jobseekers recently ran a series of articles on “Ten Tips for Submitting Electronic Résumés” and “Five dos and five don’ts to keep in mind when sending your résumé and cover letter via e-mail.” (ésumés). Apparently, most job seekers are either too busy beefing up their résumé or don’t really pay attention to some of these basic best-practices. Going back to my friend’s example, his company obviously wanted to screen e-mails from candidates based on their area of expertise, preferred interview location, etc, and a candidate should have ideally given “Area of expertise=.NET, Preferred Location of Interview=Boston”, etc, or “.NET // Boston // 7 years” instead of blindly copying the suggested text in the advert.

A very common and annoying tactic used by candidates is to “cc” about a dozen or so companies while applying for jobs. Do you think any recruiting manager is going to take kindly to you also applying to the competitor’s advert in the same mail? E-mail does not cost anything to draft and send, so why scrimp on drafting and e-mailing a dozen times exclusively instead of saving a few minutes? Another common error candidates make is to use their company’s mail to send the e-mail with the résumé attachment to their personal (yahoo/hotmail) id and then forwarding it to the employer. While forwarding such mails, the first mail becomes an attachment to the second one so the employer has to open two attachments before he can actually see the résumé. How many employers would have the patience to do so? This tactic of the candidate also shows that s/he used the company mail to draft the mail (so, it was done during working hours?). Another really ridiculous error many candidates commit is to “password protect” the word document that contains the résumé. Do they think that the prospective employer is going to be intrigued by the content and write to them asking for the password before opening the mail or is going to click it to the thrash can?

Having seen the “other side,” that is, having spent endless hours sifting through e-mails of candidates and talking to friends and peers who have done the same, I can only empathise with fellow hiring managers and HR people who have to screen through thousands of résumés that flood the inbox after every advertisement. Given the fickle human nature, and also the fact that the person looking at the inbox is going to spend at the most a few seconds scanning the mail before moving it to the “to be screened” or “reject” folder, your odds as a candidates improve greatly if you follow some common-sense and of course adhere to the instructions given in an advert to the tee.

I remember a few years ago (or maybe a decade ago), candidates had to have the résumés typed and/or photocopied on bond paper before physically mailing them to employers. Then covering letters, the format of the résumé, etc, played a big role. Perhaps some candidates in the current e-world started feeling that just because e-mails are convenient and free, they are also informal. How untrue!! The same formality that one would use while addressing prospective employers while physically mailing résumés will have to be applied to e-mailed résumés too.

The lesson here, at least for me, is that I know for sure how I am going to be drafting my résumé (as and) when I am ready to hit the job-market.





About the Author

  • A Bio and profile of the author, Mohan Babu, can be found at his homepage
  • Mohan has authored a book on Offshoring and Outsourcing (Publisher McGraw Hill, India), a link to which can be found here
  • Mohan has also authored an Online book on "Life in the US," available for free download.
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    ©Mohan Babu: All Rights Reserved 2005

    Mohan Babu is an international consultant trying to find the ‘sweet spot’ where IT meets business. E-mail: mohan He is also the author of a recent book on "Offshoring IT Services"

    All rights are reserved. Mohan Babu ("Author") hereby grants permission to use, copy and distribute this document for any NON-PROFIT purpose, provided that the article is used in its complete, UNMODIFIED form including both the above Copyright notice and this permission notice. Reproducing this article by any means, including (but not limited to) printing, copying existing prints, or publishing by electronic or other means, implies full agreement to the above non-profit-use clause. Exceptions to the above, such as including the article in a compendium to be sold for profit, are permitted only by EXPLICIT PRIOR WRITTEN CONSENT of Mohan Babu. 

    Disclaimer: This document represents the personal opinions of the Author, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of the Author's employer, nor anyone other than the Author. This Article was originally published in Express Computers


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