Don't assume that your e-mail messages will be received by the intended recipient, particularly
the first message you send to someone who doesn't know you and/or
who isn't expecting a message from you.
(bulk, unsolicited, commercial e-mail and junk messages) reportedly making up over 98%
of e-mail these days, and with much of it also carrying computer
viruses, most public and private e-mail systems are protected by software filters.
These spam filters stand guard at the entrances to e-mail systems, separating "good" e-mail messages from "bad"
ones by analyzing the headers and contents. In most cases, a human being never sees the messages or may see only the contents of the Subject, the From, and the To fields.
Unfortunately, spam filters are not perfect. So a "good" message, like one from you responding to a job lead, may not be received. That's called a "false positive," and it happens with more frequency than you think.
you don't receive a message letting you know that your message was not delivered. So you never know what happened to your message. You just don't get a response.
Even if someone
is expecting to receive a message from you, the strategies, below,
for avoiding the filtering software traps should help. Note that
doing any one of these things MAY be OK, but doing several of them
in the same message is asking for trouble.
- When you
have made a friendly contact inside your target organization,
ask them to add your e-mail address to their address book and/or
to the company's e-mail "friends" list (sometimes also
called a "white list").
- Follow whatever
directions an employer may provide about sending them your resume.
- Expect that some of your messages may not get through to the recipient, and use that fact as a reason to follow up on your e-mail.
complying with these tips does not guarantee that your message will
get through. But, following them will help reduce the probability
that your e-mail will be blocked.
- Pick your
e-mail provider carefully.
A "bad" ISP will stop your e-mail from getting
through -- all by itself. No question.
Your messages may get killed just because the source (the Internet Service Provider, ISP) is
considered "bad." ISP's are added to "black lists"
for a variety of reasons, often including that either they are,
or appear to be, a source of spam. Check out
your ISP's domain name at spam-fighting sites like the Spamhaus Project (Spamhaus.org) to see if your ISP is listed as a source of spam or an "open
The good news is that most ISP's work hard to get off a blacklist
if they get put on one. Sometimes the blacklisting only lasts
a few days. If it lasts longer, find a better ISP.
sending a message to a large number of addressees simultaneously.
If you try to send a message to 50 or more addressees, your ISP
may stop your message going out because they suspect it is spam
(they don't want to be added to the "bad ISP" list,
as in #1, above). On the receiving end, spam filters may view
the large number of addressees the same way, and kill or divert
your message to an infrequently visited probable spam folder.
Sending an e-mail message with your resume to 50 addressees at
once is really not a good idea, anyway. Customized messages and
resumes are MUCH more effective (see Standing
Out from the Crowd for more information).
the "Subject" field simple, but not blank.
line: FREE RESUME OF $100,000 EXECUTIVE!
put punctuation in your messages subjects, particularly exclamation
use words with all the letters capitalized in the subject.
use the words used by spammers, like "free," "great
offer," "investment," "prescription," "medication," "mortgage," etc. in the Subject - or the body - of the message.
use numbers or dollar amounts.
Good subject line: Retail manager w/10 years of experience
"plain text" e-mail as often as possible with minimal links.
If you can
specify the font face, size, and color in your e-mail, you are
sending out HTML e-mail which is not plain text. Spammers often
use HTML e-mail (with hypertext links in them), so best practice
is to use plain text.
[In Outlook Express, simply click on the word "Format"
in your "New Message" window, and be sure that "Plain
Text" is the selected format.]
which are over-used in spam. Think of the products and services
most frequently offered in junk messages (e.g. popular prescription
drugs, mortgages, body part enlargement products, insurance, money-making
opportunities, etc.), claims often made (e.g., making lots of
money), and words frequently used in those messages like "free"
and "spam" (as in "this message is not spam").
Exclude those words from your messages if you can.
Pay attention to the words and phrases you would typically use
on a resume. Appropriate phrases like "increased sales $xxxxxx"
can trigger the spam filters which see the dollar amounts in your
message as characteristic of spam (as in "make $10,000 a
month from home working part time").
attach your resume to your e-mail (unless specified by the employer)
and, particularly, don't attach it as a compressed file
(.zip, .tar, etc.)
Copy and paste
your resume into the body of your e-mail message. See Job-Hunt's
Internet Resume section for
help converting a Microsoft Word document into plain text, and
then cutting and pasting your resume into an e-mail.
- If possible,
follow-up on your e-mail with a "snail mail" version
sent to the real postal address.
This is a great way to establish contact and stay in touch with
a person! Reference the e-mailed version you sent (including the
date, time, and subject if possible).
filters stop messages that demonstrate several of these characteristics,
not any single one (except the first one). And, the triggers will
change over time as spammers also change their tactics to beat the
filters. As the spammers modify their approaches, the filters will
change as well to defeat them. This could be called a "vicious
cycle." So stay alert, and stay tuned!
Before you send out your message, you can check the probability that it will get through (or not) by running it through Sparklist's "Free Content Checker."
Yes, this is
a major annoyance! But ignoring the possibility that your message
won't reach the addressee is like the ostrich sticking its head
in the sand to avoid seeing what it doesn't want to see. The problem
exists. It's much better to be aware of it and do what you can to
Directions provided by an employer should always be followed when
applying to that employer regardless of what is written here.
Use this situation
to your advantage!
It is a legitimate
reason to call an employer to check to see if they received your
message. And, MAYBE, when you have them on the phone, you can -
- Connect with
a live person who will help you get that job, or
- Ask when
and where they post their job openings, or
- Do a soft-selling
job to get that interview, or
the reason you didn't get interviewed, or
- Learn what are the "next steps" in their hiring process, or
- Ask if anyone
reservation about hiring you and what it might be, or...
common characteristics of the spam you receive, and do your best
to avoid having your e-mail demonstrate the same characteristics.
If you have your own spam filter, pay attention to what it accepts
and what it rejects.
About the author...
Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. Susan is a two-time layoff "graduate" who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. In 1998, her company, NETability, Inc. purchased Job-Hunt.org, and Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt since then. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg.
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