We’re all guilty of sending an email every now and then that has a few spelling errors and typos. But sometimes the errors are a little more embarrassing, like addressing the email to the wrong person by accident.
A small typo might not be noticed, but it’s pretty obvious when you accidentally send the entire office your dietary requirements for the Christmas party. These errors can be particularly annoying — and potentially detrimental — if you’re applying for a new job and trying to make a great first impression.
So what should you do if you become the culprit of an email faux-pas?
Business Insider asked recruitment and HR professionals for the worst mistakes you can make in an email — and how to fix them if it’s too late.
1. You accidentally hit ‘reply all.’
Instead of replying back to a single person, you’ve accidentally sent everyone in the office your RSVP to an event or opinion about the upcoming pub quiz. It’s more annoying than anything else, so follow it up with a quick email saying you didn’t mean to send it to everyone and leave it at that.
However, if you work in a massive company, it can be more than a slight annoyance. For example, in November 2016 NHS employees were caught in a “reply-all” hell when a test email was sent around to absolutely everyone — that’s 1.2 million people. Some employees replied back to all asking what was happening, causing an email system break-down.
2. You wrote the wrong name.
Getting someone’s name wrong can be a cardinal sin. According to Emily Gorton, HR assistant at Powder Byrne travel agency, there’s no excuse, especially when the person’s name was written previously.
“To me, it shows lack of interest and attention to detail, which very early on can be a deal breaker,” she told Business Insider. “It can honestly change my mind about people.”
The best thing you can do in this situation is own up and apologise as soon as possible, Gorton said, even if that means sending another email straight afterwards.
Nigel Parslow, Managing Director of recruitment agency Harvey Nash, told Business Insider: “Always read through the email and check the recipients’ details as thoroughly as the grammar and content of the email itself.”
3. You pressed send too soon.
Sending an email off too soon has happened to all of us at some point. Sometimes it’s obvious to the recipient, but other times it can look like you’re being blunt. According to Parslow, pressing send prematurely is usually a result of being in a rush.
“[It’s] an issue particularly when rushing or travelling and using smartphones on bumpy trains, and where one is trying to complete the email before disembarking,” he told Business Insider.
If it happens to you, Gorton says you should always send as few emails as possible.
“Mistakes happen and we’ve all done it,” she said, suggesting just one follow-up email “rather than sending an email saying sorry for the accident, followed by another saying the rest of the email — three in total. When you’re getting hundreds of emails a day, it’s irritating to get three or four in a row from one person!”
To avoid it happening all together, put yourself as the recipient until you’re somewhere stable to send it off.
4. A word autocorrected to something weird.
Gorton says you should apologise as soon as you realise you’ve made a spelling mistake, or you pick up on a word autocorrect changed to something embarrassing.
“From a recruitment perspective, I would tell applicants to avoid sending emails from your phone,” she said. “If you’re applying on your phone it suggests you’re not putting time and effort into an application, and probably multitasking. Not a good first impression, as to me, applications should be thought through as they are usually time consuming.”
Also, she says sending something without checking your spelling, grammar, and autocorrections suggests a lack of attention to detail.
5. You’ve accidentally been misinterpreted.
Again, this can be avoided if you stop and think about what you’ve written, and you spend the time to read it through at least twice.
“Accuracy and quality are challenged when people rush work,” said Parslow. “A few more minutes in considering the content, the tone it depicts, and how it will be read is a great investment, as once it has been sent, the message will land and will be interpreted as it is written by the recipient.”
Everything that happens online can be accessed again, so it’s important to follow up with someone if they have taken something you said the wrong way.
“If you are aware that an email of this nature has been inadvertently sent, it is always better to retract, correct, and apologise,” Parslow said.
6. You sent your boss a kiss.
This one really depends on your work environment, and how close you and your boss are. Sometimes it might be entirely appropriate. Other times it really might not be.
However, an article in The Telegraph recommends you should either laugh it off or pretend it never happened. Everyone uses kisses at some point or another, so it’s unlikely your CEO will take offense, if they even notice at all.
If they reply with some kisses of their own, it’s still best to ignore, unless you really are after their affection. It’s also worth considering how far your email will go.
“An email of this type can easily be sent on to a wider community of unintended recipients, that will possibly damage your personal brand and credibility,” Parslow said.
7. You attached the wrong file.
People who are guilty of not renaming their files memorably are probably familiar with this one. For example, there was the infamous case in 2015 when a woman accidentally sent a potential employer a Jamie Oliver chilli beef recipe instead of her CV.
How you handle this depends on how embarrassing the attachment was. Was it another Word document, or was it a picture of you in your underwear? A simple apology via email should be enough, unless you attached something really bad, in which case an immediate phone call is probably best.
“A lot of the time I think the best thing to do is own up as soon as possible — an email to follow or even an immediate phone call to explain what they will be opening,” Gorton says. “We employ over 100 staff to work for us in a ski resort during February, and simple mistakes can often mean your application is rejected. A common trait people write on their CVs is attention to detail, which means everything must be spot on.”
8. You applied for a role that doesn’t exist.
According to Gorton, people often bulk apply to jobs, which means they end up applying for roles that don’t exist. If you’ve sent off an email and you haven’t even gotten the name of the role right in the subject line, that isn’t a very good sign.
“My advice would be to check and double check your emails again before sending,” Gorton said. “Taking time over them proves you are organised and diligent. Obviously mistakes happen, but once you have noticed, try to be honest and try not to do it again!”
If you’re quick enough, you now have the ability to press “undo” on Gmail, but it only gives you 30 seconds to realise an error.
Mistakes aren’t the end of the world, and more often than not it’s better to own up to them than try and ignore them.
“I think it’s best not to ignore any mistakes you make when emailing a new company for a position,” Gorton said. “If you pretend it didn’t happen, it suggests you did not realise which gives a bad first impression and that can be all it takes to have an application rejected.”
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