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Career tip of the week: how to get the response you want when sending an email
Author: Becky Einolf
Posted: November 18, 2013

Isn’t it frustrating when…

  • You write to someone asking for information or a favor and don’t hear back.
  • You get a response, but it doesn’t answer your question.
  • You get a response that requires that you respond back again. 

Here are some tips that will improve the results you get.

  1. Make sure the subject line indicates what you’re writing about. If you are sending an email to someone you’ve corresponded with before - like a professor, an advisor, or an employer - and you’re writing about something new, please do not simply hit “reply” to an earlier message. Instead, write a new message with a new and unique subject line. Remember that PSU uses Google mail, and the default way to save messages is by conversation. Conversations are defined by subject lines.
  2.  If particular identifying information like an account or ID # will help speed things up, include it. If you want someone to help you quickly and effectively, give the tools they need to locate your records. For example, if you are writing to a PSU advisor or professor, or to Financial Aid or the Registrar, please include your PSU ID# in all correspondence. If you’re writing to your doctor or dentist, consider including your billing account number. If you’re writing to a prospective employer about a job you applied for via the company’s website, include the job number that employer assigned to the position. Otherwise you may have to wait for a response until the recipient of your email has time to look up your records. The needed information is not always an ID or account number: If you are writing to someone you haven’t seen in a while, or whom you may have met only briefly at a networking event, please remind them how they know you, for example: “It was great meeting you at the BAP networking social in May…”
  3. Write to only one person If you write to two or more people, each may be tempted to let the other(s) respond. Also, they may need to confer with each other before responding. It’s better to write to only one person, and to cc any additional people who need to be aware of the content of your email.
  4. Keep your email short and simple. Lead with the question you’re seeking an answer to and then follow up with whatever background information may be needed. Keep your email brief and to the point, and ideally cover only one question or set of closely related questions in your request. If you have to cover multiple topics, break them into separate paragraphs and give each one a heading.
  5. If there is a particular date by when you really need your response, state it clearly. If, for example, you’re applying to graduate school and need a letter of recommendation, explain that applications aren’t reviewed until all required documents are received, and prominently state the deadline.