Michael Sterling

The Job Hunter’s Guide to Communication: Dos & Don’ts


Phone. Email. Text. Social Media. The menu of communication choices today is vast. Using the wrong communication can and will get you ousted from a job opportunity. How do you choose the right channel for each stage of a job search? Follow simple communication protocol.


The Job Hunter’s Guide to Communication


First Contact


When initiating contact regarding a potential job, email is the standard in today’s choices of technology. CPA Partners, like most employers, want to receive and review resumes electronically. I’ve detailed how to design a resume to be tech-friendly in the article, “Style Matters. So Does Length.”


There are a few acceptable exceptions to using email as your first contact. If you have a personal relationship with the potential employer that would allow you to initially contact them via phone or text then, by all means, use the method which is most appropriate.  Keep in mind, a text is rarely viewed as a professional approach to inquiring about a job.


If you’re applying to a position via a Job Board or recruiter, uploading your resume and cover letter to a website for review is often the requested method of contact.


Social media, such as Facebook or Twitter, should never be used during a job search for anything other than research.


Responding to Employers


Once an employer reaches out to you, take your communication cue from them. If a Partner phones you, that would signal their preference is verbal communication.


If an employer emails you, replying via email is likely fine – except when it’s not.  This is where it’s important to read the email completely.  Often there will be instructions requesting a specific form of response. The email may also instruct that you contact a different member of the firm. Shooting back a reply to the person who sent you the email, without paying attention to the details, could rule you out as a candidate.


Also important to note, in most instances you should not delete the original message when replying.  That content can be a basis of reference for all involved in an email thread.


The Thank You


Without fail, a hand written Thank You is the standard following an interview. It shows you took extra effort and that you have basic business writing skills. In a time when text slang and emojis run rampant, professional writing skills are an asset.


When time is tight, and you expect the employer will be making a decision quickly, an email Thank You is fine. It expresses your interest in the position and shows you understand the pace of the process.


The Offer and Negotiations


Rarely is email a proper medium for replying to an offer or when negotiating the details of an offer.  If you aren’t able to negotiate face-to-face, then a phone call allows you to ask and answer critical questions. You want to have a clear understanding of the position and terms of the offer.  Once you have reached an agreement, then request the final terms in writing. In most all instances, this will be a given.


If you are running into obstacles in reaching the employer by phone to discuss an offer, then I recommend sending an email requesting a phone appointment.  Aside from that, leave email out of the negotiation process.


Also leave email out of the equation when declining an offer. If you decide against a job, a phone call is a must. This allows you to politely explain your decision and leave things on a positive, professional note. Emails can easily be misinterpreted and can be viewed as disrespectful at this stage. Quite simply, don’t burn bridges.


Generational Differences


Communication gets tricky when different generations are involved.  Younger generations are all about electronic conversations through text, Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter. Leave most of the casual communication methods out of the mix.


Know your audience. If you’re dealing with an older partner, chances are they will prefer more verbal communication. Take the time to know who you are dealing with and gage your style of communication accordingly.  It’s always best to be more formal than less when conducting a job search.


As throughout the hiring process, a strong recruiter is an invaluable partner and guide. A seasoned recruiter will offer a deep understanding of a firm and its managing partners. That key knowledge will allow them to lead a candidate through the process and navigate around potential pitfalls.


For more career coaching tips check out our Career Wellness library on the SterlingFreeman website.



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