Etiquette for Job Seekers: Email and Phone

During a job search, proper etiquette can mean the difference between getting hired, and never even being invited for an interview. During a job search, proper etiquette can mean the difference between getting hired, and never even being invited for an interview. Of course, the etiquette rules for job seekers have changed significantly — because technology has altered the process, and today most pre-interview job search activities are done via email or cell phone.

These email and phone etiquette tips will help you conduct a polite, professional job search that makes a positive impact on employers.

Email job search etiquette

Under most circumstances, email is a casual means of communication. But when you’re conducting a job search, it’s important to treat email as professionally as you would a written, snail-mailed letter.

Email account: If you don’t have a professional email address, get one before you begin your job search. In terms of email accounts, professional means using your name rather than a nickname, and an email service provider that is familiar and reliable. If your email address is, no employer is going to take you seriously.

Your best choice is generally firstname.lastname with a built-in email program like Outlook, or a web-based provider like Gmail or Yahoo. You may even want to set up a free email account just for your job search, so you won’t miss or mix up important messages.

Where to send emails: For any position, it’s best to send a job application email to a specific contact person at the company, rather than a general email account like You’ll often be able to find the email address of the hiring manager or human resources director on the company website or through social media. In addition, send a copy to yourself for your records.

Subject line: Your email subject line should be brief and concise, and include the position you’re applying for. You may also consider including your name. Avoid attention-grabbing subject lines such as “I’m your next marketing director!” and opt for direct, professional communication.

Never leave the subject line blank, as your message is likely to end up labeled spam if you do.

Email content: When applying for a job, your email message is typically considered a cover letter (unless the job description specifically requests a cover letter sent as an attachment). Make sure your message is well written, free of spelling and grammar mistakes, and contains full sentences and paragraphs. Avoid using slang or acronyms—if the tone is too conversational, the hiring manager may perceive you as unprofessional or presumptuous.

If you have a contact name, address the email to Dear Mr. / Ms. Lastname, whichever is appropriate. If you weren’t able to find an individual contact, address it to Dear Hiring Manager, or skip the greeting — never write Dear Sir or Madam, or To Whom It May Concern.

You should also include an email signature with your contact information, to make it easy for the hiring manager to get in touch with you.

Phone job search etiquette

Most job seekers today use their cell phones as their contact number. This is the best option — asking potential employers to contact you at your current job is unprofessional, and listing your home phone number could result in someone else answering the call, such as a spouse, roommate, or child.

Here’s how to handle cell phone etiquette during your job search:

Professional voicemail message: Keep your voicemail message basic and courteous — state your name, and say you’ll return the call as soon as possible. Make sure you don’t have a “cute” or prerecorded message as your voicemail, as this will usually turn employers off.

Answer only when it’s appropriate: If a potential employer calls and you’re driving, in the middle of a store, busy with your family, or at a work meeting, it’s better to let the call go to voicemail and return it when you have a quiet space and time to talk. Background noise and interrupted conversations will have a greater negative impact on your chances of getting hired than missing the call in the first place — just be sure to call back promptly, at your earliest opportunity.

Be prepared: If you get a call from an employer and you’re in a position to take it, make sure your phone battery has enough charge to last. If your battery is low, or your signal is weak, move to a more receptive area and plug your phone in for the call. If this is not possible, ask the employer if you can call them back immediately on a landline, if one is available.

You should also have something to take notes on while speaking to the employer, so you can jot down any next steps.

Never bring your phone to an interview: During a job interview, it’s crucial to make a great first impression. This means you shouldn’t use your cell phone at all, from the moment you walk into the building — because any employee might notice what you’re doing while you wait for the interview, and the impression could be less than favorable. Consider leaving your phone in your locked car, or turning it off and leaving it in a pocket or purse until you walk out of the building.

If you would like to learn more about how we can help you find your next behavioral health position, contact us today at (513) 651-9500 or by email at

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