Author: Wenzhu Sun
At Global Cleveland, I spend a good amount of time talking to international job-seekers every day. Most of my job is done through emailing: providing consultations, explaining visa issues, and connecting them to professionals in their field through our Professional Connection Volunteer Program.
Quite often, I would receive an email that seems really “irritating”–full of requests and no gratitude–it almost made me feel like I’m reading an order from a harsh boss. But later when I call or meet up with these “rude” students, they are actually very nice and polite. Apparently, they never meant to be rude in the emails at all, but somehow failed.
I am familiar with Chinese culture, and have learnt a lot about Indian culture over time. The suggestions and examples below came from my daily interactions with those international job-seekers I work with (80% being Chinese/Indian international students). While I can’t speak for other cultures, I did notice that many of the “rude” emails written by people from these two cultures, have something in common that we can all work on.
Email subject matters.
Use a proper subject, make it clear and direct. For example: “Looking to Connect”, “Looking for career opportunities” or “Position 56473 Application Follow-up”.
Bad examples: blank subject line, “A reminder in case there is any opportunity for me”, “job”
Give me a reason to reply.
Once I received an email with the subject “Checking in”, and one line in the email body “Hi Wenzhu how are you”. While I appreciate the effort the student is making in terms of keeping in touch, this email did not give me a good reason to reply. When people are busy, it’s unlikely for them to reply an email just to say “I’m fine, thank you. What about you”. So what would be a good way to follow up? Well, an email with some actual content/new information. Tell the reader what you’ve been up to in a few sentences, send an interesting article with a good question, or other things that will make the reader want to reply and feel like it’s worth his/her time to do so.
Make sure you spell all the names right, especially if you’re asking them for a favor of any kind.
Bad example: “Hi Wenzhou (my name is Wenzhu) I’m *** from Kent State University, hope you remember me. I’m sending you my updated resume and Cover letter. Also Introduce me to your connections who look for entry level IT profiles. Thank You”
Now, if the name was just mentioned by someone and you really can’t confirm it (Google, LinkedIn, their company’s staff page etc), then you can say something like “Hi Elisa (I’m sorry if I spelled your name wrong), I met your colleague Jody at the *** event last night and she gave me your contact information.” But, it would be great if you have asked Jody the question before emailing this “Elisa” person.
In addition, never assume the recipient is a male or female! If you can’t google out any more details about the recipient, just use “Dear Fist Name, Last Name”. There were a few times I got an email starting with “Dear Mr. Wenzhu” or “Hello Sir”, and I questioned myself for a second there: does my profile picture on GC staff page really look like a dude? Here’s more tips on addressing unknown/external recipients.
Use a professional email address.
You can use your university email, or a gmail account that has your name (Johnsmith@gmail.com for example). HRs are not likely to open an email from Candykitty@gmail.com.
Check your spelling!
Double check, or triple check–make sure that you don’t have any misspelling, or grammar mistakes in the email. WORD has spelling-check function, use it. Bad example: I once received an email with 5 misspellings in 2 paragraphs.
Learn about cultural differences.
Pay attention to cultural differences: people from different cultures speak and write differently. For example, a few Indian students told me that “Please do the needful” is a common expression in emails back home, but it is not common here in America.
Be careful with the word “Please”. This is a really polite word in most Asian cultures, but when you say “please do something” here in America, a lot of times it would sound like a command. Bad example: “I sent you my resume, please add it into your database. I also sent you invitation on LinkedIn please accept it so you can be in my network. Also requested to join the group, please accept that too.”
Instead of “please do something”, use “I’d appreciate it if you can….” “Thank you so much for….” “Could you…?” It doesn’t matter how much this person is able to help you; it’s a nice thing to always say thank you and show your appreciation.
Other bits and pieces:
Try not to use abbreviations unless necessary; this is not texting with your friends. Bad example: “Hope u have a good day. Ty.”
When you say “attached is my resume”, make sure you have actually attached it. Double check before hitting the “send” button. In fact, it’s a good idea to attach the files first, and then write the email body so you don’t forget about it.
Think about what you want to say and put them into one single email. I’ve had job seeker sending me 3 emails all 1 minute apart, just to add in another one or two sentences to the previous one.
“Too many not-to-dos! What should I do?”
My friends, no need to panic!
For many international people, writing an email in English is still a daunting task. Like many of you, the English I learnt was from textbooks–schools back in China taught me how to write academic essays and how to get high scores in English tests, but there was not much training or practicing opportunities on how to exchange emails like a real American professional.
Here’s what you CAN do:
One simple thing to do is to Google. Google “Email Etiquette” and you will be able to see tons of articles on that. Do some reading and you will start to get a good sense of how things work here.
Another help you can get is through Global Cleveland. We have a Professional Connection Volunteer program, where our volunteers can work with you on networking, emailing, and job search practice.
Hope some of these tips can help. Questions? Suggestions? Let me know: Wenzhu@globalcleveland.org
Photo credit: Nelson Biagio Jr – WordPress.com