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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Why HR Needs to Test Job Applicants for their Email Writing Skills


As the author of the blog, “Know your next president’s email writing skills (not only Hillary’s) – a blog series” I have visited a few presidential campaign events in my area. 

At one of these occasions I exchanged thoughts with one of the candidates’ regional campaign director. I told him that his and the overall campaign director’s emails were not effective – they listed their own names instead of their candidate’s name as the senders. 

“Your campaign should be about creating your candidate’s brand,” I said. “Even though you might not like to hear that – voters do not need to know your name because they can’t vote for you. The way you have set up your campaign emails probably half of your emails get deleted, because people delete emails from people they don’t know.” 

“Well, I am a bit old-fashioned,” he said. “I prefer talking on the phone.”

“That’s nice,” I replied, “but history proves that you need to pay attention to these things. In 2007/08, then-candidate Barack Obama raised half-a-billion dollars with his email campaign. If done effectively, email campaigns yield great results.” 

“Oh – Wow – I better tell my campaign director.”

To this day, not much has changed.  The campaign manager added the name of his candidate at the end of his address. Subscribers can only see the candidate’s name if they hover with their mouse over the sender’s handle.  (How many people do that?)

Also, the candidate isn’t doing too well in the polls. 

“Well,” you might think, “Students... enthusiastic fans... they are still kind of young...  They don’t know how this is done right.”

Sadly, the problem is far more widespread.

Even though a 2014 study by McKinsey & Company proved that email marketing is nearly 40 times as effective as Facebook and Twitter combined and marketers themselves continue to rate email the most effective marketing strategy, human resources departments continue to administer personality tests instead of email writing tests.

Writing best emails is also not taught in US high schools and at most US colleges. The effect is mind boggling.

Here are a few of the hundreds of inadvertently funny or embarrassing emails I have received. 


Re: [Event Replay] 
Hi Gisela,
That was AMAZING! We’re you there? If so, I hope ...

[Even though the correct usage of “were”, “we’re”, “we are” is taught in elementary school these three words are still among the most common incorrectly used words.]


Would you be interested in reviewing the …xyz-Kit?
If so please send me you address and i will get it rite over to you
(Marketing Dept./ a US company)



(No greeting)
I just realized I mistyped your email address on the instructions I just sent.
Hope you have a great week.
(no signature, but a religious quote in lieu of a signature)

[Sent by a paralegal.]


I am the marketing manager of ...(company)...
I have noticed that you are pretty good at writing reviews on amazon.
And it seems you have plenty of fans love your reviews.
I am glad to offer you our fantastic ...(product)... for your wonderful review on Amazon.
Please reply with your shipping address if you are willing to receive and review it.
By the way, recommend our ...(different product)... to you,
It suits to ...
Thanks and Best Regards.
(name)/Marketing Manager.

[... a US company...]


Yourr scanned documents cannot be printed.  Fax them to me at xxx-xxx-xxxx
[ sent by the secretary of a lawyer.]


These kinds of emails can destroy a budding business before it could even take off. They also do damage to an established business and even to a business which doesn’t sell goods but offers services (e.g. a lawyer’s office) because inevitably the recipient must wonder about the quality of services he/she will receive.

Writing best emails is a skill that needs to be taught, and human resources departments should test job applicants for their skills. 


E-mail evangelist Gisela Hausmann is author of Naked Words 2.0 The Effective 157-Word Email and "Naked Text: Email Writing Skills for Teenagers,"

Her work has been featured in the SUCCESS magazine. She is a frequent guest on WYFF-TV4, her local TV-station. Gisela graduated with a master’s degree in Film and mass media from the University of Vienna; she has produced dozens of features for TV. 


© 2015 by Gisela Hausmann
© baranq via Shutterstock - Photo of candidates waiting for a job interview
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