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May 25 2017

Read This Carefully!

Oh dear.  The worst email mistake I've ever made surfaced the other day – and here’s the story.  I kicked myself for days because of it; if it helps you to know, perhaps you can avoid something similar.

A few months ago I was trying to get a client interested in a very particular candidate; a specialist in his area and at the top of his field.  It happens that we have two clients in the same sector (who are friendly rivals) in two different countries, but we don’t work for them both in the same country.  (I’d like it to be the same client in two – or more – countries but, for historical reasons, that’s the way it is.)  I had spoken with the client and he wrote to me saying he was keen to know more of my candidate: easy, I drafted and sent a short email.  I followed up a few days later with a phone call and he sounded a bit distant, then he was impossible to reach after that.  Curious, I thought, but then again, everyone is busy so I didn’t pressure him.

Fast forward to recently when I met someone more senior and I mention what I’ve been trying to achieve.  She says, oh great, keep me in the loop.  So I go back to my original email to forward to her and when I read it through again to check I haven’t made any typos, I see that I had referred to the other client.  Oh no.  No.  Not smart at all.  Not. At. All.

How to retrieve the situation?  Hope that she doesn’t notice?  So I deleted the offending words – which I remember clearly putting in, thinking the client would be impressed.  How did I get that so wrong?  When I wrote that email, I was in the other country with the other client – and perhaps we had just been discussing that client and his search.  But I clearly wasn’t paying 100% attention when I drafted that email.  Oh dear.

A friend works for the client in the region so I sent an SMS telling him what had happened.  He replied, yes, he knew, his colleague had mentioned it to him, thinking it odd.  I said that I felt – and still feel – like an idiot.  The client must think that I’m a fool.  Oh dear again.  I think that I have managed to retrieve the situation but I still feel badly about it.

Attention to detail is essential.  Most of the time in our offices with important client communications we have a second pair of eyes to go over things – precisely to avoid the kind of stupid, sophomoric mistake I made.  Don’t let this happen to you.

As usual, let me know if you have any particular topic you would like to see covered here.

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