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Employer Correspondence

Contacting and following up with past, current, and/or prospective employers is an integral part of the career development and job search process. It can further demonstrate your interest in an organization or position; remind an employer about your relevant skills; strengthen your rapport with a contact; and illustrate your social etiquette - an important aspect of professionalism.

 

When corresponding with an employer, keep these writing tips in mind:

  • Make a personal connection — tailor your correspondence to your recipient by mentioning a topic that you discussed or a professional interest that you share

  • Be concise — avoid lengthy messages, going off topic and including extraneous details; this makes it easier for an employer to understand the main point of your message

  • Use the “inverted pyramid” structure — prioritize the content in your message from most to least important. This is a popular writing style used in journalism that can be applied to day-to-day correspondence

  • Proofread your letters or messages and ensure that there are no grammatical or spelling errors

 

Correspondence can take the form of a physical document (i.e. traditional letter), email or social media message. Throughout your job search, correspondence can include:

Thank You Letters

A thank you letter acknowledges the time someone has given you in your job search or information gathering. It expresses your appreciation, reminds a contact of your relevant skills, reiterates your interest in a position or organization, and shows your ability to follow-up. Since many job seekers will not send a thank you, after meeting with a potential employer, this type of letter can help set you apart.

You should send a thank you letter after a job interview, information interview, or network contact. Even if you are not presently looking for work at a particular organization, a well thought out thank you letter can leave doors open and help industry professionals remember who you are. You can send your thank you in the form of a card, letter, or formal e-mail.

 

Additional tips:

  • Send your thank you note within 24 hours

  • Thank everyone who assists you. E.g. After a panel interview, send a separate thank you message to each person on the panel

  • If you are sending a thank you letter to a network contact, offer to reciprocate a favour or be of help

 

Format:

  • Your name, address, phone number, and email address

  • Date thank you letter is sent

  • Name, position, and contact information of the recipient

  • Salutation — Consider using one of the following greetings for your thank you letter:

  • “Dear ________ ,” — Insert title and last name, e.g. “Dear Mr. Smith,” (more formal). Or use the recipient’s first name, e.g. “Dear John,”

  • Simply indicating the recipient’s name, e.g. “Mr. Smith,” or “John,”

  • Paragraph 1Thank You: Indicate what you are thanking your contact for and/or the reason for the letter; Make sure to mention the date of the interview and position title.

  • Paragraph 2Why You: Briefly highlight a topic or example that was discussed, your core skills and/or your interest in a position (if relevant); Keep this section around 3 to 5 sentences at most, highlighting 3 to 4 points.

  • Paragraph 3Why Them: Use this paragraph to specifically mention why you want to work for this company. Mention things you already knew about them, or bring up examples you learned about during the interview. Try to link the two of you together.

  • Paragraphy 4 — Strong Closing and your signature: Thank your recipient again for their time. Examples of ways to sign-off your thank you letter:

  • “Sincerely,”

  • “Regards,”

  • “Yours truly,”

Follow-Up Letters

You can write a follow-up letter after you have sent a resume, attended an interview, or connected with a contact at a venue such as a career fair, networking event, or trade show. Similar to a thank you letter, you can use the opportunity to thank an individual for their time, and reiterate your qualifications and interest in a position. If you have initiated contact and not heard back from a prospective employer, a follow-up letter can prompt an employer to remember you and take action.

 

Format:

  • Your name, address, phone number, and email address

  • Date follow-up letter is sent

  • Name, position, and contact information of the recipient

  • Salutation — Consider using one of the following greetings:

  • “Dear ________ ,” — Insert title and last name, e.g. “Dear Mr. Smith,” (more formal). Or use the recipient’s first name, e.g. “Dear John,”

  • “Hello ________ ,” or “Hi ________ ,” (more casual salutation)

  • “Good morning, ________ .” or “Good afternoon, ________ .”

  • Simply indicating the recipient’s name, e.g. “Mr. Smith,” or “John,”

  • Paragraph 1 — Indicate what you are following up on (e.g. job interview, resume, information interview request, phone call) and/or the reason for the letter

  • Paragraph 2 — Briefly highlight your core skills, a relevant achievement, and/or your interest in a position (if relevant)

  • Paragraph 3 — Thank your recipient again for their time

  • Closing and your signature — Examples of ways to sign-off your letter:

  • “Sincerely,”

  • “Regards,”

  • “Warmest regards,”

  • “Yours truly,”

  • “Best,”

 

Reference Requests

For jobs, volunteer activities, and extracurricular involvement, you may be asked for a list of references. References are contacts in your network who can attest to your skills, experiences, and personal characteristics. People who know you in a work setting are your best references: managers, colleagues, or employees. Clients or vendors are also potential references.

Typically, you will be asked for 3 references. Always inform your contacts in advance, before listing them as a reference. When asking someone to be your reference, you will want to:

  • List the position that you applied for, and name the target company/organization (you might want to attach the original job posting and a link to the company website)

  • Refer to the skills and experiences that your contact can highlight on your behalf

  • Provide an update on the hiring process (if applicable), and indicate when your reference might expect to hear from the hiring manager

 

Do not put your references on your resume. Use a separate document to prepare a reference list to give to a prospective employer, add the same header as your resume, and note the following information for each reference:

  • Name

  • Company name

  • Your professional relationship with this individual (e.g. manager, colleague, client)

  • Phone number

  • Email

 

If you do not have employment references because you have a limited work history or your references are unavailable, use character references such as professors and peers from committees or volunteer organizations.

Accepting a Job Offer

Employers will usually call a successful job candidate to offer a position. Before accepting a job over the phone, thank the employer for the job offer and politely ask for 2–3 days to review the offer in writing first. Once you have gone over the written job offer and are ready to accept the terms of the position, you can confirm your decision through a phone call and email (or letter) to the hiring organization (i.e. the representative you have been in touch with). In your acceptance letter, you will want to:

  • Include a salutation

  • Thank the employer for the job offer

  • Indicate that you are accepting the position with the organization

  • Reference any attachments (i.e. signed job offer) that you are including

  • Confirm your start date

  • Conclude with a final thank you, closing, and your signature

Declining a Job Offer

When declining a job offer, respect the organization’s time by responding promptly, expressing your appreciation for the offer, and keeping your correspondence courteous and concise. You can politely decline a role by:

  • Salutation

  • Thanking the employer for the job offer (you can also mention something you appreciated or enjoyed about the recruitment process)

  • Stating your regret that you will not be accepting the position, and briefly mentioning why. E.g. You have accepted another role, you have decided to explore another position that will be a better match for your interests in [a skill or two you would like to use or enhance], you would like to look into a position that is more suited to your career goals at this time, etc.

  • Reiterating your appreciation and offering your best wishes for the employer’s job candidate search

  • Closing and your signature


You do not want to sever your existing relationship with the employer, however, you do not need to “over explain” your decision. You can confirm your decision through a phone call and email (or letter) to the hiring organization (i.e. the representative you have been in touch with).

Salary Negotiation

Ideally, an employer will mention the topic of salary first. However, salary discussions can come up at any point of the job search process, and you want to be prepared to answer an employer’s questions around salary.

To determine the pay scale for an individual with your education and qualifications, you will need to research salary ranges in your target industry and role. You can do this by looking at labour market information and similar job postings, and/or speaking to industry professionals who are already in that position.

Below are common scenarios for salary discussions:

 

A salary range is requested by the employer in your cover letter and/or during the interview. 

  • Always give a salary range if the employer asks for your salary expectation. Depending on your experience and the position, your range might be between $5,000 – $15,000
  • Avoid under- or over-valuing yourself; justify your range based on your salary research

  • Express your interest in working for the company and highlight key ways you can contribute to its growth and success
     

The employer discusses the salary during the interview or at the time of the job offer.

  • If the employer offers a salary that is lower than what you expected, you can try negotiating your salary as long as you provide sound reasons for the higher figure

  • Use salary information gathered from your labour market research, and consider your financial needs and wants
     

Not all employers will be able to negotiate your salary. If you are unable to obtain your ideal salary, you might want to try negotiating other concessions such as vacation time, the possibility of a performance bonus, or dental or health benefits.

To decide on your salary negotiation strategy, evaluate all aspects of the job offer. Some positions may not have a very high salary, but offer a great benefits package and provide stronger future opportunities.

Email Etiquette

Email correspondence has become the norm for both employers and job seekers — often in place of physical letters. Below are 10 etiquette tips for communicating with an employer through email:

 

1. Send correspondence from a professional email address

Help manage your online identity by using a professional e-mail address that includes your first and last name. If you have a popular name, include your middle name, use initials, and/or include a number. E.g., clairesmith55@ryerson.ca.

 

2. Always include a subject line

Give an employer a sense of what you are emailing about by using a clear subject line. For instance, “Job Application - Digital Strategist Position #123876” or “Information Interview Request”. Never leave a subject line empty when emailing an employer.

 

3. Use a proper salutation

Avoid overly casual salutations like “Hey” or “Yo”, when addressing an employer. Use “Dear”, “Hello”, or “Hi”.

 

4. Write concisely and with purpose

Employers can receive over 100 email messages per day. Avoid writing lengthy messages, going off topic, and including extraneous details; this allows an employer to quickly get to the main point of your email.

 

5. Avoid overusing exclamation points

For professional email correspondence, limit the use of exclamation points or write without them.

 

6. Reference attachments

If you include attachments, mention the attachments and their purpose in the body of your email to help reassure an employer that they are safe to open.

 

7. Sign-off with a closing

Use a closing like “Regards”, “Sincerely”, or “Best” before signing-off with your name.

 

8. Proofread for spelling and grammar  

Ensure there are no spelling or grammatical errors in your email.

 

9. Check your recipient’s email before hitting send

Review your recipient’s email address to confirm you have selected the correct address.

 

10. Reply to your email

Acknowledge receipt of a message, by replying to your e-mail. If you need more time to respond to an email request, reply with a quick email to reassure an employer that their message has been received and you will follow-up with them.

 

* Adapted from Business Insider: 11 Email Etiquette Rules Every Professional Should Know (2014)

 

For more tips, read: 'Building Your Profile - Online & Hard Copy' in CAREER COMPASS

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