Practical Business English For Recruiters & Job Hunters

I thought I would take a break from technical content to speak about something which is critically important for job prosepcts; whichever side of that interaction you find yourself on.

Note: This article emphasizes North American English in the context of the Information Technology (IT) Industry; which tends to be very informal and personal in speech (as opposed to formal and impersonal). I have included more formal phrases here and there, for usage in other contexts. In any case this is my subjective opinion and experience as a native English speaker, writer since age 10, worker since 12, and someone involved in IT since 2013.

Contents:

  • A hilarious real life example of how not to write business English and an analysis of the mistakes

My intention in writing in this article is entirely to help my ESL friends (and even some native speakers) learn how to write professional emails and messages.

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How To Do It Wrong

I get many messages from recruiters on my LinkedIn page with varying levels of English competancy. I am never bothered by this as I understand how messed up English can be. It is highly irregular in many ways, and it possesses the most words of any language.

Every now and again, I get a message from a recruiter who is in need of some advice. Let us look at this real example of a recruiter email (I will of course omit the details) I recieved in July 2020 :

Ryan,

Hi Dear, How are you dong?

I’m from <company name> , an EdTech company. We are into e-learning, training, assessment and recuitment.

I’d like to explore the synergies.

Cheers,

<recruiter name>

First, let us point out the flaws.

#1 Almost never start an email to a stranger with “Hi Dear.”

Dear, when used as a noun, is used almost exclusively for loved ones. On occasion you will meet a very friendly human being who will refer to you as “dear” even though you may or may not be directly related (nor even acquainted), but for a business email this is completely innappropriate.

In other words, in this context of a man sending a business correspondance to another man in the IT industry (although this applies regardless of genitalia), this person basically started the email with something like “Hi Sweetheart, how are you doing?” Accidentily hilarious, but not effective.

Dong is another word for Penis

Yes, this person really did write “How are you dong?

Explore The Synergies

This one is funny in that a vague “execuspeak” word “synergy” was used, and there is some implication that there are several of these “synergies.” In any case I did understand the meaning and will discuss how to write this properly later.

Execuspeak is deliberately vague language commonly used in middle and upper management (executives) of companies. Synergy is execuspeak for “working together.”

Apart from those items, this person has decent punctuation and a few grammar errors, but not more than the average native English speaker would make. Also, the general structure of the email is actually a good micro-example of how to structure such an email. Credit for that at least.

How To Make It Better

Now I will rewrite this message as I would have written it in this situation.

Dear Ryan,

How are you doing? I’m from <company name>, an education technology company. I had a look at your credentials and experience, and wanted to reach out. Our team specializes in e-learning, training, assessment, and recruiting.

If you are looking for a change of pace, let’s set up a time to chat and see if <company name> might be a good fit for you.

Best regards,

Ryan

Structural Analysis

One can apply the same general formula for both job hunters and job recruiters. There are many people who have broken this formula down in more detail, but I will give you my version.

  1. Greetings: Show a bit of concern for the recipient (unless they are unknown, in which case I would skip the “how are you” part)

Dear Ryan,

How are you doing?

2. Explain who you are: Mention your title and if appropriate, company, organization, brand, or relevant personal details

I’m from <company name>, an education technology company.

3. Explain why we care to speak: What do you have that they want? What do they have that you want?

I had a look at your credentials and experience, and wanted to reach out.

Our team specializes in e-learning, training, assessment, and recruiting.

4. Explain what happens next: Assuming both parties want to move forward, how and when can that happen?

If you are looking for a change of pace, let’s set up a time to chat and see if <company name> might be a good fit for you.

5. Sign off/Signature: Show respect either way because we are all human beings

Best regards,

Ryan

Obviously in a job application you would flesh out many details, but I recommend following this general pattern. I do encourage you to keep it fairly succinct even when adding details for items #2 and #3.

For job recruiters, I would aim for being even more succinct; which was one thing I felt the original message did well.

Vocabulary & Grammer Analysis

#1 Greetings

Dear Ryan,

You may absolutely use dear as an adjective. This could apply to a specific person as above, or a group of people. If you find that confusing, don’t hate the player, hate the game.

“Dear customers,” or “Dear LinkedIn staff,” or “Dear employees,”

Perfectly okay. It shows that you care; even if you do not.

“To whom it may concern,”

Sometimes when you write a job application, you do not know who it is addressed to. This phrase shows politeness, respect, and very good English competency.

“Hello Ryan,” or “Hey Ryan,”

In my parents generation this would come off as informal, but in my generation we typically do not care. I would personally start more formal with my first email, and adjust my level of formality according to the respondent’s speech patterns.

How are you doing?

Apart from asking about the state of a person’s genitalia (as in the original text), there is a good amount of flexibility in asking this kind of question. “How are you doing,” is a very good general purpose line. It is neither overly polite nor impolite.

“Hope you are doing well.”

I personally prefer this version over “How are you doing?” It is generally one less question either person needs to bother with, and people will still tell you if something’s wrong either way.

“How do you do?” or “How are you keeping?”

Both phrases are not so common in my generation so I would typically avoid them unless extreme formality was a concern.

“How’s it going?”

This one comes off as a bit less formal (to my ears anyways) than “How are you doing?” I would use it when addressing someone I have already met at least once.

“What’s up?”

Very informal which is great for me (to me, formality is largely a result of inflated egos), but almost never appropriate for business correspondance; unless it is with someone who is used to speaking informally with you.

#2 Explain Who You Are

I’m from <company name>, an education technology company.

You probably could get away with using “EdTech,” but it is not proper English in the strictest sense. Not much else to say here that is not situationally dependent.

#3 Explain Why We Care To Speak

I had a look at your credentials and experience, and wanted to reach out.

“reach out.”

This phrase is a more personal and informal way of saying “contact.” Of the hundreds of emails and messages I have sent and recieved, this is the most common form.

“touch base.”

Very similar to above but in my opinion less formal; use only in the most informal circumstances.

Our team specializes in e-learning, training, assessment, and recruiting.

This is also something I see in the majority of correspondence in my past experience.

“Our team”

In case you have not noticed, IT companies (particularly in Silicon Valley) do their best to create atmospheres where people feel like they are part of team, cared for, and their work has meaning; at least this is the perception that human resources officers would like to cultivate.

By using phrases like “our team” instead of “our company,” you will be speaking their language.

#4 Explain What Happens Next

If you are looking for a change of pace, let’s set up a time to chat and see if <company name> might be a good fit for you.

We are making extensive usage of euphemisms. “If you are looking for a change” is a nicer way of saying “if you are about to get your utilities cut off,” or “if you hate your current job.”

“If you are seeking gainful emplyoment”

This might be a more appropriate statement outside of Silicon Valley; it is straight to the point but still polite.

“time to chat”

Again, we are using deliberately personal and informal language.

“…see if <company name> might be a good fit for you.”

There is again a subtle emphasis on caring about the person you are talking to here. I could have phrased this in other ways like “see if our team is right for you” and so on; either way we are not jumping down anyone’s throat and sounding like a needy, overzealous individual.

#5 Sign Off/Signature

Best regards,

Again, we have a lot of flexibility here.

“Best regards,” or “Kind regards,” or “Warm regards,” or “Regards,”

These are all somewhat interchangeable. I tend to use plain old “Regards,” but if I am sincerely wishing the person well or showing appreciation, I would use “Best regards.”

“Either way, thank you for your time.”

This is a great way to end an email. Either way again implies non-neediness, and you are recognizing that time has value for everyone.

“Thank you kindly,” or “Thank you,” or “Thanks,”

You can also use these statements too. They are arranged in varying levels of emphasis on how appreciative you are.

In closing, obviously this information in this article is situational and subjective. It was written with good intentions, but no one knows everything or is correct every time.

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