Eva van Emden (she/her), freelance editor

Certified copy editor and proofreader


June 26, 2010

Technology for job seekers, part 2: Email for business communication

In “Technology for job seekers, part 1,” I talked about how to send out a nice-looking resumé in digital form. This time I’d like to share a few techniques for saving yourself from silly email mistakes in business communication.

Good email practice for really important messages

For truly important messages such as job applications and mass mail-outs, don’t compose the message in the email client itself. The habit of hitting “send” as soon as you finish typing but before you check for errors and omissions is too ingrained. Instead, write the message in a text editor or word processor, spell-check it, proofread it (if it’s a really important message, print it out and proofread it on paper, and get someone else to read it too), and then copy and paste it into the email client. In fact, if you’re really serious about getting it right, use a checklist to make sure that the email contains the right information, is addressed to all the appropriate people, and has all the necessary attachments.

Moderately important emails

For messages that aren’t of the highest importance—for instance, messages to business associates who will forgive the odd typo but whom you generally want to impress—you might have a lower level of email vigilance. Here’s what I usually do:
  1. Leave the address field blank. An addressed email is like a gun with a bullet in the chamber: one little slip and it’ll go off, whether you’re ready or not.
  2. Attach the attachments first, or as soon as you see yourself writing the words “I am attaching.”
  3. Write the body of the message as usual.
  4. When you hit “send” and find that the message won’t go because there’s nothing in the address field, use this as your reminder to check the message for errors before you fill in the address and send for real.

A useful Gmail feature: undo send

One time, using a work email account, I accidentally sent a personal email to the entire Columbia Forest District. I galloped down the hall to the system administrator’s office. “Is there any way to get an email back?!” Well, lucky me: our internal ministry messaging system wasn’t true email, so I was able to recall my messages. But with true email sent through the internet, you can’t get it back.

What Gmail does is to quietly delay sending your message and offer you the chance to cancel sending by clicking “Undo.” You may have noticed that 99 percent of the times you send something that shouldn’t be sent, you realize it within seconds (part of the reason it’s so infuriating). If you undo, the message appears back in its editing textbox, and you can edit it or throw it away. You can set the send delay from five to thirty seconds in the settings.

Technology for job seekers, part 1: How to send your resumé

I realized during a recent resumé-writing workshop I attended that there are a few simple things that you can do with the tools you’re probably already using to make applying for jobs through email run more smoothly.

In part 1, I’ll talk about why you shouldn’t send your resumé out as a Word document and how to produce a PDF instead. In part 2, I’ll talk about a few nice features in Gmail that can make your business communication go more smoothly.

Send your resumé as a PDF

Send your resumé in PDF form, not as a Word document. Word documents are the wrong format to use for a document that 1) has to be easily accessible to as many people as possible 2) has to look good and 3) should be read-only (not editable).

First, if you send someone a Word document, you’re expecting them to have MS Word installed, and that’s not a good assumption to make. Furthermore, assuming that they do have Word and they fire it up and open your resumé, they’re going to see it in editable form, possibly laid out in draft view, possibly rendering your fonts incorrectly, and perhaps even with squiggly underlines showing all the places where the spelling and grammar checker disagrees with your carefully thought out and well-founded stylistic choices. Or possibly even pointing out a real mistake, god forbid that there should be one. In any case, this is not the first impression you want to make. Finally, the recipient now has the option of printing out your carefully formatted resumé in a way that makes it (and therefore you) look terrible.

So what should you do instead? Save your document as a PDF. PDF, if you’re not familiar with it, is a format created by Adobe. It’s viewable with Adobe Reader, which is free and easily downloadable. Just about anybody who solicits a resumé in digital format from you will be able to view a PDF. When the recipient opens the PDF, it will look exactly the way it did when you created it: same fonts, same font size, same layout. When they print it, it will come out looking good.

How do I make a PDF?

  • Using Word: Under “Save As . . .” choose the “PDF” option.
  • Not using Word: LibreOffice Writer is free and good. LibreOffice is a free tool suite that does most of what MS Office does. It will read Word documents (and write them) and export to PDF. You can either create your resumé in LibreOffice in the first place, or just use it to create a PDF.