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E-mail provides an employer with the opportunity to conduct a pre-interview inquiry based on the information supplied on the job hunter’s executive resume or cover letter, without the necessity of opening a verbal dialogue. Most of this correspondence is designed to clarify a very specific question or issue, although both parties often gain a surprising amount of additional information about each other as a result of these exchanges.

Assume, for example, that a sales executive living on the east coast has sent his or her executive resume to a prospective employer located on the west coast, leading to the question of where the candidate wishes to work. If the employer is not yet prepared to get locked into a telephone conversation, a simple e-mail inquiry will not only answer the question of domicile preference, but it may also provide insight as to why the individual wants to move to the west coast (assuming that is the case) and when the person expects to relocate.

Since a yes or no answer is rarely appropriate when answering an e-mail inquiry, the employer gets the answer to a specific question and has a chance to learn more about the candidate’s ability to communicate. Conversely, the job hunter has a chance to gain some insight as to the hiring executive’s immediate concerns, and perhaps even a glimpse of the hiring executive’s personality based on the tone and nature of the question. On occasion, an e-mail inquiry may provide the candidate with an opportunity to expand on important background information, and perhaps even identify an additional job-related accomplishment. If handled properly, this type of situation can only add to the impact that your executive resume has already had on the employer.

Think of an E-Mail Inquiry as the Beginning of an Interview
Most e-mail inquiries tend to be friendly and usually seem to be nothing more than an informal question. But never lose track of the fact that no matter how friendly a message may appear, it is still part of the interviewing process. As such, your goal is to build a positive impression of yourself so that you will be contacted by telephone and subsequently invited in for a personal interview.

One advantage of the e-mail inquiry is the time delay between receiving the question and sending your response. Since this delay gives you considerable time to think about what you want to say, you can be assured that an employer will make some critical judgments about your ability to write. If you do not fully understand the employer’s question, ask for clarification. Do not try to bluff your way through when you are uncertain as to the employer’s exact meaning. If you guess wrong, even a top-notch executive resume is not likely to be of much help in promoting your continued candidacy. As in executive resume writing, you can not afford to make a single error or mistake. 

Your E-Mail Response is an Important Marketing Document
When discussing an accomplishment, always give some critical background information as to what the situation was like prior to your taking action, and then reinforce the impact of your actions with quantified results just as you do on your executive resume. This concept is important since people have a tendency to remember a well-told success story.

For example, don’t say, “I substantially reduced overtime and its related costs.” A better statement might be: “Upon my arrival, the entire group was averaging 9 days of unauthorized sick leave a year. However, through some effective leadership I was able to reduce absenteeism by 87%, increase productivity by 16%, and save $430,000 in annual overtime expense.” Your goal is to build a precise word picture of your strengths and abilities to set yourself apart from your competition. Be ready, of course, for follow-up questions such as, “What do you mean by effective leadership?”

Given the right opportunity, you might even mention a laudatory quotation or award you have received to reinforce your status as a top performer. For example, “Having successfully closed the $23 million account after four years of failure by my predecessor, I received the President’s Award for Outstanding Achievement with a $100,000 cash bonus.” A quotation or award, used at the right spot can impress on the interviewer what your current employer thinks of you, although more than one quote or award can make you sound like a braggart. Just remember, the actual award is not the important issue. Rather, it’s what you did to get the award. Needless to say, this same principle also applies when writing your executive resume.

Even if you get a sense there may be some questionable aspects to the job, leave the door open. E-mail inquiries tend to be narrowly focused on one or two specific areas of interest, and rarely provide very much insight as to the total nature of the job. You can always reject an offer at a later date, but it is virtually impossible to open a door once you have closed it. If, however, you decide that you are definitely not interested in the position, inform the employer that you are declining the opportunity and thank the person for his or her time and consideration. Do not be like the few rude job hunters who simply ignore the prospective employer’s correspondence.

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