Tips & Tricks

Avoid the Spam Folder: Make a Proper First Impression When Using Email to Communicate with Clients and Prospective Employers

Email is used every day to communicate with friends, family, colleagues, and clients/customers.

Spam Folder Image

Unfortunately, every day, email users make mistakes that family and friends may overlook or excuse but customers, clients and colleagues may take exception to the fact that you didn't put the effort into the content you are sending them.

Here is a quick list of important email etiquette to review before sending emails to people who may hire you, pay you or refer you:

1. Use the From Field Appropriately

When I open my Inbox to see what new emails are waiting for me, the first thing I see is who sent me an email and then, I look to see what the email is about (subject line is discussed next). The From field is supposed to clearly identify who sent the email. It is one of your first impressions, especially if you are cold emailing.
Your From field should show your first and last name, or company name, written in a proper format using correct spelling and grammar.
For example: my From field contains the words 'wordstock documents' with 'wordstock' inputted in the First Name section and 'documents' inputted in the Last Name section.
If you are applying for an employment position, I should see the same first and last names in your From field as written on your resume/cover letter.
For example: if Sheila White is applying for a job, I should see the name Sheila White in the From field, as well as written at the top of her resume/cover letter.
I should NOT see in the From field:
- SHEILA WHITE (all caps represents yelling and laziness)
- S WHITE or S White (unclear who is sending the email)
- Sheila & Steve (unprofessional - a lot of couples combine their names when using their personal email; I recommend creating a new email address when job searching and/or contacting clients for your business)

2. Write a Clear and Concise Subject Line

Take a minute to tell your reader what the content of your email contains. Your Subject Line should contain a few words/phrases only; leave the majority of your content to the body of your email.
For example: Pete's Automotive - Brake Quote Requested OR Follow-up from Last Week's Chamber Meeting. Both of these examples are brief but detailed enough to know when I click on the email, what the body content should include. 
For job seekers, I encourage clearly identifying what position you are applying for in the Subject Line. For example: Application for Full-Time Office Administrator Position (ID #5698740). Double-check the job posting before sending; sometimes it will outline what content the employer wants you to include in the Subject Line.
The Subject Line also helps me to identify the level of urgency for an email. Do I have to open it now or can I take a look at it later today?
Remember, the Spellcheck or Spelling and Grammar tool in email programs does not typically apply to the content in the Subject Line. Ensure you use proper spelling, spacing, grammar, punctuation, capitalization, etc.
Finally, leaving your Subject Line blank or with content such as Fwd: or RE: will typically land your email in the receiver's Spam/Junk folder. Without appropriate identification and details, the recipient may overlook your email or simply delete it.

3. Clearly Address the Person You are Contacting

By addressing a person by name, it creates a connection and starts to build a relationship. Regardless of why you are emailing, be respectful and address each person appropriately based on the type of interaction.
For example, if you are applying for an employment position and have never met the hiring manager, I recommend keeping it objective and professional:
Mr. Smith or Ms. Smith or Angela Smith
It can be off-putting for some people to receive a job application directed to just Angela when you have never met this person before. 

Using To Whom It May Concern or Dear Sir/Madam means that you didn't take the time to do a little research. By taking a few minutes to identify the right person that you are sending an email to goes a long way. Go onto a company's web site, search through the directory, call the company, etc. It can help you stand apart from another applicant.

When networking, it is easy to ask a person for a business card. You have their name and contact details, so use them.
When following up, it is assumed you have personally interacted with them; so in this situation, you can direct the email to the person using their first name, if you choose.

4. Remind the Reader of How You Met/Know Each Other (if applicable)

The title says it all. Use the first few lines to remind or re-engage with the reader:
Hi Angela,
My name is Jodi and I own a local company called wordstock. We recently met at last week's Chamber meeting, and I am just following up from our conversation about your bookkeeper.

If this is a first introduction or cold email, you need to introduce yourself and explain why you are contacting them. Be clear and concise.

5. Be Mindful of the Content Length

Get to the point! Everyone is busy and everyone has multiple emails to go through in a day. 
I should be able to identify who you are and the purpose of your email without scrolling (general rule for smartphones).
Keep your email to two paragraphs (unless your reader is expecting a detailed and lengthy email).

6. Be Respectful of the Size of the Email

By sending multiple attachments, it increases the actual size of your email. All email programs have limits, even Google, and the size of your email can impact the actual length of time it takes to send your email, whether the recipient has enough available space to receive your email, and/or whether you have enough space to send your own email.
There is a difference between attaching and embedding documents and (especially) images. 
I personally recommend attaching vs. embedding because it keeps your email size smaller and allows the recipient to choose the option of downloading an attachment vs. being 'forced' to view it upon opening the email.

7. Include a Call to Action

As mentioned above, people receive multiple emails a day. If you don't tell me that I need to follow-up with you, I likely won't. 
By including a Call to Action, it can help communication continue between both parties. For example, tell your reader if you need a response by a certain day or explain how to sign-up for an event or at the least, how to contact you if they have any questions.

8. Create and Use an Appropriate Email Signature

Think about who you are contacting, why are you contacting them, and what email address you are using to send the email. Now, think about how you should end your email. Is it informal and only requires your first name - such as sending an email to you friend? Or are you applying for a job and should sign off with your full name? Or are you communicating with a potential client and should sign off with your name and business contact details?
Always remember your audience and identify what level of professionalism you need to include.
Also, remember that hiring managers and potential customers may not be impressed by you including a cute animated GIF or famous Martin Luther King Jr. quote at the end of your email.

9. Proofread and Edit Your Content Before Sending

Just because you are done writing the email does not mean you are ready to hit the 'Send' button. Take a few minutes and review your Subject Line and content.
Double-check for spelling and grammatical errors. Read the email content out loud.
If submitting a job application, did you follow the application guidelines? Did you attach your resume? Cover letter? Have you addressed the email to the correct email address?
If emailing a quote to a potential client, did you remember to attach the quote? Did you address the email to the right person?
Forgetting to include an attachment and sending an email to the wrong person are the top two mistakes that people make when emailing. These errors can be prevented by reviewing your content before sending. Don't rush!

10. Avoid Landing in the Spam Folder

You have one chance at sending an email and making a positive first impression. Follow the suggestions above and your email should avoid the Spam folder.
As a back-up, you can always follow-up with the recipient within 24 hours to ensure they received the email.
Please don't call within 15 minutes of sending your email. Technology can sometimes take longer than 15 minutes to process your email, plus the recipient may not be at their desk at the time that your email is sent. Be patient and respectful, BUT do make sure to follow-up!

Email is an important medium that we use to communicate multiple times a day. By identifying your audience and purpose of your email, you will be able to structure your email and include the appropriate content to fit each sender.

Good luck and happy writing!


How Do You Complete the Sale - Even After the Customer has Walked Away?

I attended Supercrawl in Hamilton, Ontario on Saturday. I visited 42 vendor booths and 13 of them did not have any marketing materials to take with me. No business cards, no postcards, no materials at all.

How many of you have gone to a festival or fair, visited a booth that was selling something you were interested in but you wanted to think about it before purchasing said item?

I am a serial overthinker when it comes to purchasing things spur of the moment and half the time I forget to go back. [I'm aware of the irony and contradiction. :) ]

To help me remember, or give me an incentive to see what other items a business offers, I always take a business card or some promotional material from each booth to remind me who they are and why I was interested in returning. Plus, if I wanted to find them online or follow them on social media, these details would most likely be on a piece of marketing.

Tip: Remember the importance of educating your potential customers and helping them want to complete the sale. You spent quite a bit of money to have a booth at SuperCrawl; you need to ensure you are prepared for the customers who don't talk to you or are contemplating a purchase. 

Personally, if you have nothing to remind me, you are lost in the abyss and I am unlikely to return to make a purchase - today or ever (because I don't remember you or your business name).

Image: Copied from City of Hamilton web site @

What an Employer Expects When You Are Applying for a Job


Day in and day out, job seekers question why they aren't hearing back from hiring managers or getting interviews. I hear people regularly comment that it's the market or that there aren't any jobs right now. Although the market may fluctuate, there are jobs. With each job posted, there are hundreds to sometimes thousands of people applying for one or more jobs at a time. So, instead of blaming or side-stepping external factors such as the economy or the job market or the government, focus on you. Focus on being smart and competitive in a world where the job market is constantly changing. Focus your time and energy on making you and your resume stand out from the competition. To do that, you have to be strategic and also ensure that you are not making the same mistakes as thousands of other job seekers do every day.

In addition to thousands of job seekers actively looking for employment, there are thousands (more so hundreds of thousands) of articles talking about resume etiquette, interview preparation, dos and don'ts, etc.

Today, this post will join the others BUT I hope to bring attention to the most important factors related to the process of applying for a job. As well, this article focuses on the employer's side - what are they looking for when reading your resume?


Before finalizing your resume or cover letter and officially applying for a position, review and answer these questions:

  1. Is your contact information correct?
    I know that this should be a give-in. Unfortunately, I have reviewed and received more than one resume that not only had the applicant's name spelled incorrectly but other points of contact were incorrect as well. This section is one that people usually skip over when proofreading because they assume that it's correct.
    If you can't take the time to make sure that your own name is spelled correctly, a hiring manager is not interested in learning about what other mistakes or details you will miss being a part of their team.
    Additionally, if your contact details are incorrect, how do you expect a hiring manager to get a hold of you to set-up an interview?
    Take the time to review these details and ensure your contact information is correct.

  2. Is your resume/cover letter updated?
    This ties into #1 - has your address, phone number or email address changed? If yes, ensure you update your contact details.
    If you have recently left your previous position, have you updated your resume to discuss your last role and responsibilities?
    For a lot of hiring managers, they only care about your last position. They want to learn what company employed you, what your responsibilities included, and the length of time that you worked for that company.

  3. Have you tailored/customized your resume/cover letter to the job posting?
    I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to tailor your resume and cover letter for each position. Each employer has taken the time to clearly lay out what their expectations are for the position they posted. If they wanted to receive resumes where they have to try to read between the lines and guess that - "of course, this person has enough experience to do the job" - then, they wouldn't have written the detailed job posting to begin with.
    Take the time to clearly draw connections between the experience, education and skills that are important or required in the job posting to the experience, education and skills on your resume. You connect the dots - don't make the employer go hunting. Make it simple for them. Give them a reason to want to contact you, learn more about you, and even be excited to hire you.

  4. Have you followed the instructions on the job posting?
    If the job posting says to apply via email, apply via email. If it says to apply in-person between 2pm-4pm, that's when you apply in-person. This is your first test in demonstrating that you can follow instructions. If you choose to follow a route that is not listed because it is more convenient for you, don't expect to get a phone call. Don't expect the interview.

  5. If applying via email, is your email address appropriate? or are both perfectly fine personal email addresses. As an employer, if I receive an email from either of these two addresses, I may make assumptions that could impact my impression of you and impact whether I invite you for an interview. You may not agree that an employer should do this, but every employer is human, and humans make judgments and assumptions. For example, I may assume that Tim was born in 1954, or I might assume that Dora likes dungeons, dungeons and dragons or even go a little darker.
    I recommend creating a new email address to use when applying for employment. Appropriate examples include or If your name is taken, try rearranging your first and last name, adding a middle initial or adding numbers that make sense but don't relate to your birthday, social insurance number or any other distinguishing trait about you.

  6. Have you proofread your whole application - resume, cover letter, etc.?
    I have to ask! When an employer sees an error - whether spelling, grammar or contextual - it is still an error. This document is supposed to represent you on paper. If I see one or more errors throughout your resume, you have demonstrated that you are not detail-oriented. Employers see errors as unprofessional. Some even see errors as being disrespectful because you are wasting the readers time. Proofread! A really easy method is to read your document out loud. Or, ask a friend/family member to proofread it for you. If all else fails, I'm here to help!

  7. Do a test email.
    I always encourage clients to email themselves first, so that they can see what the employer would see. This helps to identify and correct any errors before you send your application.


If you apply for a job and disregard any or all of the notes above and below, you are wasting not only the employer's time, but your own. Make each application count! Show them who you are and what you can contribute to the job and company.

Here are some basic DON'T DO IT tips:

  1. Don't submit a resume/cover letter that contains spelling and/or grammar errors - I just wanted to throw this in one more time!

  2. Don't use the same resume for every job application. See rational above.

  3. Don't submit your application the way you want to; show the hiring manager that you can follow instructions.

  4. If you are applying in person, don't appear unprofessional or act disrespectful.
    This is your first impression. Dress appropriately - don't wear your street clothes when dropping off your resume. Take the time to wear appropriate business attire, depending on the job and company. No excuses!
    Smile and be polite with all staff that you engage with while on company property. Many hiring managers ask their staff to report back their first impression of potential employees.
    Be respectful to the front desk administrative assistant. This person is typically the gatekeeper for the company and holds more power than you assume.

  5. If applying via email, don't leave the body of the email empty.
    Ensure you write a brief paragraph introducing yourself and what job you are applying for in the body of your email.
    Clearly fill out the subject line. Sometimes the job posting tells you what to write in the subject line. If it doesn't, simply include the job title that you are applying for.
    Proofread for errors. The spelling and grammar check tool in email programs does not check for errors in the subject line.
    Make sure to have a professional signature when ending the email.

  6. Use appropriate file names for attachments.
    Remember, hiring managers can see the file names of each attachment you send them. The file name Doc1.docx does not appear professional, nor does it appear that you know how to use the 'Save As' function properly. This might conflict if in your resume you say that you are an expert Word user.
    Proofreading isn't just for the resume and cover letter.

I hope you enjoyed this post. I wish all of you the best of luck when applying for a new position.

I encourage you to leave comments and feedback, as well as other tactics that you use when applying for jobs.

If you would like some assistance with your own resume or cover letter, please connect with me at