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Posted: September 14, 2009

Email can be hazardous to your job search

Have you hurt yourself with instant communication you can't take back?

John Heckers

It happened again this morning. Someone sent me an email demanding that I produce a deliverable that wasn't even close to due.

"I have yet to receive [the deliverable]," she wrote. She could have easily said, "John, did you have a chance to send ABC to me yet?" allowing a gracious response.

As it is, I simply won't use the person who sent me the email as a vendor. She lost business this morning through her rude and aggressive email (which had several other rude and aggressive elements). How many things have you lost because of your emails and the etiquette rules you're violating?

Here are some pointers for emails while you're job hunting, especially at the executive level.

1). Be nice. Don't use phrases like "I have yet to receive...," "I have not yet heard....," "Contrary to your promised call back...," or other hostile and demanding phrases.

2). Don't shout. While a judicious use of caps in an email system that might not recognize italics or bold or other rich text conventions is acceptable, an email all in caps is shouting, as are too many items in caps.

3). Be careful about what you say. Don't say anything you wouldn't be fine in saying in an actual letter to the recipient.

4). Respect your company's image. Never write a nasty email (or snail mail) on company letterhead! Never write anything nasty on company letterhead! (Pretend I just wrote that ten more times for emphasis.)

5). Don't use obscenity, blasphemy or vulgarity. Don't you #$)*# hate it when people use inappropriate language in emails? Don't do it.  Don't show disrespect for anyone's deity, mention their bodily functions, or even use the words that request a particular deity to condemn them to hot places, nor mention that hot place. It is crude and vulgar to do so.

6). Don't! Overuse! Exclamation! Marks! Ever!!!!!!!! Overusing any punctuation in an email is inappropriate, don't you think????????

7). Make sure you done got good English. You don't want none of your recipients to think you ain't cultured now, does ya?

8). Dnt abrv wrds esp in eml. (Don't abbreviate words especially in email.) And don't use terms best reserved for texting or instant messaging. LOL! Oops. BRB. Irritating isn't it?

9). Don't reveal personal information. Emails can be forwarded and go "viral." Don't write about anything that you wouldn't be OK with your next boss or your grandmother-in-law seeing in an email.

10). Don't make accusations in an email. Don't write anything that could get your boss in trouble, accuse anyone of inappropriate behavior, or anything of the sort. This is highly inappropriate and could wind up with everyone fired, not hired, or just on the carpet.

11). Don't ever write or allow to be received anything pornographic or obscene. I know of four people who were fired over the years for sending and receiving obscene or inappropriate emails. One company showed me a very, very graphic letter a woman had written to her boyfriend. It may have been decent writing of that sort, but it was really terrible judgment.

12). Don't hit "send" until you've slept on it. If the email is in any way "challenging," don't hit "send" until you've reread it after sleeping on it.

I'm not a fan of emails and other forms of instant communication for business anyway, but all are here to stay. Just be careful, and use instant communication as sparingly as possible -- it sticks around to haunt you forever.

My best advice is: if possible, sleep on it. Many a disaster can be prevented this way. 

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John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC was an Executive, Relationships, Life and Spiritual Coach in Denver with 30 years of experience  helping people with their lives, relationships and careers.

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