Email Etiquette Advice From an Unlikely Source

Posted by The Editors on December 16, 2011
Email Etiquette Advice From an Unlikely Source

I spend most of my days awash in career advice, whether I’m working on the Insider Guides, editing my colleagues’ blog posts, or surveying the best of the Twitter-verse. I’m always surprised to come across career advice from anyone who’s not a recruiter, author, or another form of “expert.” It turns around my expectations, like coming across investigative journalism by a noted fiction author or a stirring speech given by a doctor or engineer. (Save some talents for the rest of us, guys!)

Career advice from a music critic? Never thought I’d see it, but one of my favorites, Sasha Frere-Jones of the New Yorker, recently weighed in, responding to reader comments in the Paris Review. He discussed playing in a band, using a thesaurus, and—surprisingly—email etiquette.

What’s your opinion on job interview etiquette? Is it sufficient to send thank you e-mails? The hand-written note seems to me a thoughtful gesture, but it takes a day or so to arrive. Is it overkill to send the email, as well as the old-fashioned note?

The hand-written note is a red flag; it’s really only a charming move when the two parties already know each other. A brief, cheerful email is best. Nothing startles like an email that blooms open into several screens’ worth of type. I have not hired people on the basis of email length, as it usually corresponds to loopy behavior (as do multiple emails sent within the space of an hour).

His comments definitely match up with our advice in a recent WetFeet magazine article: It’s the message, not the medium, that matters for a thank you note.  I also learned something new: That some people may make a hiring decision based on email length. Frere-Jones’ advice is thoughtful, direct, and funny, like much of his writing on other topics.

Have you ever gotten career guidance from an unlikely place? What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten from an unexpected source?

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