Job Application Advice: How Formal Should Your Email Be?

By StartupCVs

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There are many difficult things about the job search process. Many things to fine tune. One that may seem small, but that is actually very important, is the level of formality you use in your emails. Whether too stiff or too informal, striking the wrong note can instantly make you seem like a bad culture fit and ruin your chances of getting a job. Avoid that scenario by putting a little thought into what you're writing. You can use the same content. Just package it a little differently.

First Contact

This part of the exchange is, of course, the hardest. First impressions are lasting. To decide your level of formality at this stage, think about the kind of company you are contacting. Is it a prestigious law firm or a hot tech startup? Of course, your approach will differ in either case.

Look at the website

A quick trip to the company's website should help you out. What kind of language are they using there and on their blog or social profiles? If it's formal, your email should be, too. If it's relaxed and friendly, you can write in the same way.


The more important someone is, the more likely it is that you should write to them formally. Even this can't be taken for granted, though. These days, many companies encourage informality.

Play it safe

Although either can be a turn-off to the wrong person, you're better off going more formal rather than less.


Once you receive a reply, things become much easier. Follow your correspondent's lead. They're using your first name? You should use theirs. They're writing a quick, personal email? Do the same. They end things with a lack of formality? You can, too. On the other hand, if they're not, don't.

Basic tips for corporate companies:

  • Begin with “Dear“.
  • Use a person's full name. If you don't know it, use sir or madam.
  • Don't use contractions or slang. Write formally.
  • End with “Best wishes“, “Warm regards“ or even “Yours sincerely“.

Basic tips for startups:

  • Start with “Hi“ or “Hello“.
  • First names are fine.
  • Write in a relaxed way but still pay attention to spelling and grammar.
  • Finish with “Thanks“ or “Best“

BONUS EMAIL TIP: Whatever level of formality, always keep your emails short and to the point. Your recipients will appreciate not having to wade through a paragraph to find one important point.

This advice should give you some idea how to go about that all-important application email, so all that remains is to wish you the best of luck.

N.B. This advice relates to English-speaking positions. Conventions can be different in other languages. For example, German companies, whether startup or corporate, would always expect the initial contact to be formal.

Read more job search and application advice on the StartupCVs blog.

StartupCVs is a recruiting platform for startups. We are headquartered in Berlin and operating globally. Our current focus lies on Berlin, London, Silicon Valley and New York City.

Equipped with leadership experience in both leading European startups and global corporations (eg. Google, BCG, Rocket Internet & HitFox), we are well aware of the every-day struggles of hiring top talent. Being responsible for hundreds of startup hires in the past, we have built a profound expertise in this area.

Our strengths turned into our mission - to facilitate the yet-so-inefficient recruiting process: A process which is key to startup success! It fills us with pride to see the positive feedback we receive on a daily basis from recruiters as well as candidates. We put a lot of brainpower, manpower, time and effort into StartupCVs to make sure we address both the right candidates as well as the right startups.


About the company

At Social Hire, we don't just do social.

Our group of specialists are an organisation that helps our clients boost their social media marketing by offering social media management services on a monthly basis.

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