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California Young Lawyers Association

Why Your Emailed Job Applications Aren’t Working

I think everyone can agree that we have become an electronic society. Email has quickly turned into the preferred method of communication between friends and colleagues. The job application process has sort of lagged behind the digital revolution somewhat over the years, but I think it’s now safe to say that most employers prefer to receive candidates’ materials through email.

The problem with this new shift is that some applicants seem to believe the required formalities that exist in paper applications somehow disappear when they are applying by email. This way of thinking is fatal to your job prospects. Most of the time, you will never hear from the employer and unfortunately may never realize that the reason for this was some crucial email mistake. Keep in mind that since your email is the first thing a potential employer sees, and if there are problems with it your documents may not even get read.

With all of this said, here are a few tips for improved email communication. Although some of them may seem obvious, you would be surprised by the amount of people who routinely make these costly errors.

In the subject line of your email, be sure to indicate the proper class=”anchor” name of the position to which you are applying. For example, “Application for Post-Bar Law Clerk Position” and not “Law Clerk.”

As with a proper paper letter, make sure you open your e-mail with a salutation. Do not simply start your email with “Attached please find…..”

Starting with “Hi” or worse yet “Hey” is also completely inappropriate. Begin with “Dear” and end the greeting line with a colon.

Never use the contact person’s first class=”anchor” name. Unless directed otherwise, use Ms. or Mr. followed by their last class=”anchor” name. Do not address a female contact as “Mrs.”

However, if the person has a title, use it and their last class=”anchor” name. For example, if the contact is a professor, military officer, senator, judge, or has another official title, use that title in your greeting line and be sure to spell it out. For example, “Dear Captain Gomez:” or “Dear Professor Taylor:” (not Prof.).

Do not include a joke or in any way display anything other than a conservative, formal approach.

If you are asked to include multiple documents such as a cover letter, resume and references, combine all of the documents into one attachment in lieu of multiple attachments. Do not make it more difficult for the employer.

Always convert your word document into a PDF to avoid any potential tampering with your materials, and to preserve your formatting.

If you’ve ever used the track changes feature for your materials, be sure that any comments or edits are not lingering. Your best bet is to accept or reject all the changes, turn off the track changes feature, and then save the document.

Finally, your closing should be just like a formal letter and not include every possible affiliation you have or your favorite inspirational quote. Simply provide your full class=”anchor” name and best contact information.

Follow these helpful tips and you will significantly increase your chances of receiving a call for an interview. In a very tight job market, where there are many qualified and over-qualified candidates, one simple mistake can be the reason that you remain unemployed.

Beverly K. Bracker 
Director of Career Services 
Thomas Jefferson School of Law

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