How do I explain away an accidental email?
March 21, 2010 12:24 AM   Subscribe

Argh! I am an idiot and accidentally sent an email asking about a summer job (tailored to a charity) to a person running a research lab. How do I salvage this?

I've been writing to mental health organizations and charities to ask about summer work (I'm a uni student), and I have a draft which I change to suit each place. I copied-and-pasted this draft onto an email addressed to a psychology research lab, meaning to change it significantly, since the work at a lab vs. a charity will naturally be different, but hit the 'send' button by mistake partway through... (ensue headbanging on desk)

This means the email still has occasional "your organization" in place of "your lab", not to mention bringing up totally inappropriate stuff for a lab job, like "interaction with clients" etc.

The person hasn't answered yet - should I send another email explaining the slightly confusing first one? How should I phrase it? Have I screwed up my chance with this lab?
posted by monocot to Work & Money (13 answers total)
Write another email, use some self-effacing language saying that you "got your wires crossed" and in your pursuit of multiple jobs sent them one with the wrong language. Maybe you blew it, maybe not, but I think being upfront about your mistake puts you in a better situation than letting that email sit out there with goofs in it.
posted by meadowlark lime at 12:29 AM on March 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

What you are doing is the same thing all students in your position do. The places you sent that won't be too offended. I would send a follow up e mail apologizing for your over site and send the correct letter.
posted by gypseefire at 12:32 AM on March 21, 2010

I agree— following up with an explanation (basically what you wrote here: you goofed and sent them a half-edited draft, since you're also applying to a different job) and a corrected query makes it look like you made a simple mistake, realized it, and took steps to correct it. Otherwise it looks like you just don't care if you send a comprehensible query or not.
posted by hattifattener at 12:36 AM on March 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Give the person a call (you need to call to follow up every email anyway). Phone conversations have waaaaaaay more impact than an email.

I wouldn't even bother explaining over the phone, because it is a distraction from your objective, which is to get a job. Emails provide your prospect with a dim headsup that you are out there, you are available, and you want to work. In short, the phone call is more important than the email. Start dialing.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:47 AM on March 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you are using Outlook, and both of you are using email on a Microsoft Server, you can recall the message. Here are the instructions.
posted by Houstonian at 1:44 AM on March 21, 2010

If someone sent me a bodged email, I'd raise an eyebrow but it wouldn't necessarily put me off permanently. If the person then rang me, I'd be slightly irritated about them grabbing some of my valuable time, but if they were ringing because they were worried about their bodged email, I'd feel it was understandable and be sympathetic. If they rang and started pressing me for a job without offering any explanation of the bodged email, I'd assume they were both stupid and over-assertive: I would be annoyed, and they would most certainly not get a job.
posted by Phanx at 2:33 AM on March 21, 2010 [3 favorites]

I agree, call, explain, apologize in as little time as necessary... If the rest of your resume looks good, this is a small factor that will be overlooked.

We make mistakes at the other end as well, I had a four e/mail exchange with someone using the wrong name... we understand mistakes..
posted by HuronBob at 6:34 AM on March 21, 2010

I've gotten a cover letter like this and it immediately went in the trash. However, if someone e-mailed and explained I would not hold it against them at all. Do not call academic researchers at any level on the phone unless it is pre-arranged by e-mail. In this case don't call, send a quick note very briefly explaining, with a new cover letter.
posted by grouse at 7:32 AM on March 21, 2010 [3 favorites]

I agree with the phone call - it might work. Also, here are tips for drafting important emails, based on what I've learned the hard way:

1. Attach files first
2. Then draft the email
3. Proofread everything
4. Then fill in recipient email address
5. Look over again, then click send

This method protects you from sending the email without your attached resume or other file, and also from sending it to the recipient before you're finished drafting the email. You have no idea how many times I've clicked the send button when I meant to click save, only to have a window pop up telling me I need to specify the recipient. Disaster averted!
posted by belau at 9:07 AM on March 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

It's possible to send email from Word, using mailmerge, and you can put appropriate information in the appropriate fields. Just make sure nobody gets a letter to Dear %TITLE %LASTNAME.
posted by theora55 at 10:22 AM on March 21, 2010

Another vote for the don't phone an academic line. Not without agreeing that it's OK to phone first. Much better to put it all in an email.
posted by handee at 10:38 AM on March 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Send them the CORRECT letter as quickly as possible, like, right now. In the email with the right cover letter say you attached the wrong file (a draft) previously and to please disregard the former email.

If they hold it against you then you dont want to work there anyway.
posted by outsider at 10:40 AM on March 21, 2010

I've sent an apology and a corrected email to the researcher, fingers crossed. I'm lucky that it's the weekend and she won't be answering till Monday, so she'll hopefully be reading my apology before my botched email.
posted by monocot at 1:11 PM on March 21, 2010

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