e-mail message can make or break your job search with a specific
organization or person. Doing it well is required and assumed. Doing
it poorly is the kiss of death.
what's important to the recipient.
A job search is personal sales, so think and write like a good sales
Hint: Don't use many "I" sentences in your messages -
"I saw your job posting on CareerBuilder, and I want to apply
for the job. I think that your company would be a great place
to work, and I have attached my resume for your consideration."
Ouch! Four "I's in one paragraph!
"My 2 years of successful experience in online customer support
with a Website processing 100 orders a day with an error rate of less than 1%, working closely with 7 team members to achieve 97% on-time shipments, and tracking the inventory levels of 65 products fit the requirements of the Website customer
support opening (# 12345) you currently have posted on CareerBuilder."
your message like a newspaper article - top down.
summarize the most important points in the first paragraph
of your message, as in "Good" above. Just like a newspaper
article's "lead" paragraph, the first paragraph of your
e-mail should grab your recipient's attention so that the rest of
the message (including your resume!) is read.
Saving your most
important point for the last paragraph only works if someone reads
that far, and most people won't unless the first paragraph has grabbed
supporting information in the paragraphs below the first
An e-mail message needs plenty of white space to be easy to read.
Long fat paragraphs of dense text (a.k.a. "wall of words")
are daunting to the reader, and not likely to be read carefully.
Break up the big paragraphs into smaller ones.
highlight important points with bulleted lists (replace the bullets
in "rich text" with asterisks in "plain text")
and other conventions to help your reader see the most important
Particularly your first message to someone should be short.
Long messages are intimidating.
If someone is in a hurry, a long message is less likely to be read
or read completely - it may be saved for "later" but later
may never come. If they are expecting a long message, it
is more likely to be read.
a "good" e-mail address.
Send your job search messages from a serious address, like "MJSmith567@..."
With a little marketing added, "MJSmith-MBA@..." or "MJSmith-CSProp@..."
Don't use your
"smartypants@..." or "thebigboozer@..." accounts
for your job search. Messages from silly or dumb e-mail addresses
may look like junk email (or jokes) and be deleted unread.
an effective subject.
subject really is the "headline" of your message, and
it should contain enough information to catch the recipient's attention,
in a positive way.
For example: "Your Customer Service Representative posting on CareerBuilder"
message to the "right" addressee.
you have a person's name and their e-mail address to use. If not,
call to see what person/address is appropriate. If they've specified
the recipient in their posting, ad, or instructions on their Website,
follow their instructions, AND try to find another, better
address to use - preferably the hiring manager or the recruiter.
Add a "signature"
section at the bottom.
Add a few lines at the bottom of the message, below the closing,
that are a combination of marketing and contact information.
Keep the lines
short (fewer than 45 characters and spaces per line) so that it
doesn't "wrap" and look ugly. Don't use the tab key; type
in every character, and then save it as a *.txt file. Your e-mail
software can probably add it automatically to the bottom of every
message. You can delete it from the messages that don't need it,
or have your e-mail software insert it when appropriate.
Include the URL for your LinkedIn Profile - yes, you need to have a LinkedIn Profile, and you can edit the URL of your "public profile" on LinkedIn to make it unique and add marketing like Mary Jane did below.
typically looks something like this:
Mary Jane Smith
Ecommerce Customer Support Specialist
your signature consistent with the job you are seeking.
Don't "blast" out the same message to many recipients
at the same time.
It will look like a "form letter" type of message and
be discarded. If you send the same message, at the same time, to
multiple addressees at the same domain name, the e-mail filtering
software may assume that your message is either junk mail or a virus
and discard it. Personal messages, customized and sent to one addressee
at a time, are the most effective.
Just because an e-mail message is not printed out on letterhead,
put into an envelope, and mailed using traditional methods doesn't
mean it's any less important or formal. Treat e-mail with the same
kind of care you would treat traditional business correspondence
- don't send your first draft, use good spelling and grammar, etc.
We all make
assumptions about e-mail that aren't really true. Here are some
important things to keep in mind:
is not a "complete" communications medium. Your
recipient cannot hear your voice or see your face. Are you smiling
or snarling when you write "Thanks a lot"? They can
only read your words. So be careful of the words you use, and,
though they can occasionally be helpful, "emoticons"
(:->) are not appropriate in business e-mail. Sorry (:-|)
- Not every
e-mail is delivered. Software monitors most e-mail systems,
attempting to separate the "good" e-mail from the "junk."
Sometimes a good message can look like a bad one and get deleted
or filed in a folder that is seldom reviewed. This is a great
excuse to call that hiring manager to see if s/he got your message!
is not really private. The message you send to person A may
be forwarded to persons B through Z who in turn forward it to
their friends and/or associates. This can be good ("viral
marketing" in Internet speak) or bad. And, according to a
recent study, the majority of medium to large employers retain
(and may review) e-mail messages sent by employees.
messages can have an extremely long life. Anyone who receives
your message may save it, either on paper or on their computer
(or both). And, of course, messages are saved on individual computers
and also forwarded to countless people, who may also save it.
In addition, parts of the e-mail infrastructure make and keep
copies as back-up in case of technical problems. Reportedly, America
Online archives messages for a year.
It's best to
avoid writing in an e-mail anything you wouldn't be comfortable
having your parents read on the front page of The New York Times
or The Wall Street Journal.
© Copyright, 2004 - 2013, Susan P. Joyce. All rights reserved.
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 and on Google+
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published in the May 26, 2004, edition of Job-Hunt's free
newsletter - the Online
Job Search Guide.]