There may be no other scenario when effective e-mail writing is more important than in your search for employment. A successful e-mail can make the difference in whether you know about a job opening, whether you get the interview, and whether you land the position.
E-mail communication offers a fast, efficient way to introduce yourself to potential employers. It also provides a way to follow up after an interview or chance meeting. How do you make sure your e-mails project you and your skills in the best possible light?
If you are currently employed and looking for a new job, do not use your current work e-mail address for your job search. Not only does it look unprofessional to the potential new employer, you may find yourself without a paycheck to support your search.
The format of your e-mail also should convey a professional image. Check your e-mail program's settings. Use a standard 11- or 12-point size in basic fonts such as Arial, Verdana or Times New Roman. Delete any signature files, colors, automatic attachments or other unusual format settings you may have been using.
You want your e-mail to stand out from the rest because of your experience and background, not because of its colorful border or the words of wisdom you usually include after your signature.
As with all your workplace e-mails, select your subject line with care and precision. Eliminate unnecessary words, keeping in mind that a typical inbox shows about 60 characters of a subject line, while a mobile phone reveals about half that many.
Make sure your subject line reveals the purpose of your e-mail. Employers and HR people are inundated with e-mail and will easily bypass or delete e-mails with vague subject lines such as, "Here is my resume," or "Seeking position."
Most hiring managers have filters and folders to manage their e-mails, so it is important to follow job application directions if you have them. Check the application guidelines for suggested subject lines and follow them exactly.
If you do not have other instructions, include your name and the position you seek in the subject line as well as the job's ID, if there is one.
Here are a few examples:
Andrew Smith application for IT Assistant Manager
No. 123456 – Andrew Smith Application
Andrew Smith Following Up on Sales Position Interview
If you have qualifications that make you stand out for a job, such as MBA, CPA, or Ph.D., you may include them in your subject line. Examples:
Accounting Director – Andrew Smith, CPA
Research Scientist – Andrew Smith, Ph.D.
Another way to catch a recipient's eye with your subject line is to mention a mutual acquaintance. Instead of saving it only for the body of your e-mail, you can name drop in the subject line. In certain cases, it may make the difference in your message being opened and read. Example:
Referred by Anita Brown for Public Relations Position
Now that you have gotten the hiring manager's attention, it is important to keep it with a professional tone. A job application is not the place to come off as too casual, so you are looking to sound friendly without stepping over into overly friendly or presumptuous in tone.
Use Mr. or Ms. and the contact's last name whenever possible. Use the company's website or directory to get the name and e-mail address of the hiring manager.
If you are unsure of how to address the e-mail, it is acceptable to use, "Dear Hiring Manager," or even the formal, "To Whom It May Concern," or "Dear Sir or Madam." A Saddleback College survey of more than 2,000 employers found that 40 percent of managers preferred, "Dear Hiring Manager" as a greeting. The greeting, "To Whom It May Concern" was favored by 27 percent of the respondents, and 17 percent preferred, "Dear Sir or Madam." (17 percent.)
Eight percent of the respondents preferred that job candidates leave the "to" line blank and simply begin with the body of the e-mail. Only 6 percent of respondents favored, "Dear Human Resources Director" as the salutation.
Begin your message by stating who you are and the reason for the e-mail. Here are a few examples for different job search situations:
Responding to an ad:
As a recent college graduate with a marketing major, I am writing to apply for the marketing assistant position advertised on your company's website.
As a Sales Manager with a proven record of streamlining processes and exceeding sales goals, I am interested in your Sales Director position.
Looking for possible openings:
As someone who recently completed a summer internship with a local public relations firm, and who has managed social media for a local nonprofit group on a volunteer basis, I am writing to learn of any opportunities with your marketing department.
If referred by someone:
My neighbor Alice Kenton referred me to you, as I am interested in exploring a career in sports physical therapy.
If following up on an interview or conversation:
Thank you very much for taking the time to meet with me last week. I enjoyed learning more about your company, and I am excited about the possibility of working with you.
Keep the rest of your message short and to the point. If the job posting asked for your cover letter to include certain information, follow those instructions.
If you are sending all of your materials as an attachment, mention what is included, position you are applying for and contact information. Here's an example:
Dear Ms. Jacobson:
Thank you for talking with me this afternoon. As I mentioned, I am a first year law student at the University Of Virginia School Of Law who is applying for a summer clerkship with your firm. I have attached the resume and transcript that you requested.
If you have questions or need more information, please let me know. I look forward to hearing from you.
If you have applied for a job and have not heard anything after about two weeks, you may want to send a brief e-mail to ask about the status of your application. Here is an example:
Dear Mr. Green:
I am writing to follow up on my application for your sales position. I think my experience and my enthusiasm for your product line make me a great fit for the job. I hope to talk with you about it when you are ready to begin scheduling interviews.
With best regards,
Many positions offer you the opportunity to send an e-mailed cover letter as part of your application. A cover letter is your opportunity to highlight information from your resume that makes you uniquely qualified for this position.
Follow the same basic format for job search e-mails. Keeping brevity in mind, three to five paragraphs on one page is a good rule of thumb. Your paragraphs should be short, with only a few sentences in each one. Double space in between your paragraphs, so that your letter has plenty of white space.
The first paragraph serves as an introduction and tells the reader why you are writing, the position you are seeking and how you heard about it.
The second paragraph of your e-mail should refer specifically to your qualifications for the job and how your abilities and experiences relate to the position. Use clear examples and quantify, whenever possible, to back up your claims.
If, for example, you are stating your ability to save a company money, say how much money you saved for your last employer.
The final part of the e-mail should convey your interest and enthusiasm in the job and let the employer know how he or she can reach you. Explain how and when you will follow up to schedule a mutually convenient meeting and include your contact information.
If you have a LinkedIn profile or any other appropriate professional social media page, you may reference the link in your closing.
Avoid using the same wording for each e-mail you send. When you tailor your letter for each situation, you show that you have taken the time to learn about that company and how you can fit in with the company culture.
Decide which skills you want to highlight by reviewing the job description. Select one experience to emphasize in depth, or briefly discuss how a few experiences you have had demonstrate a particular skill. Remember, you can connect both volunteer experiences and job-related experiences with the skill set you have developed.
Here is an example:
Dear Mr. Blanton:
I am writing to express my interest in the social media marketing position at ______ (company). I believe my work-related experience and my passion for the field make me an excellent candidate to join your creative team.
I graduated last spring with a marketing major from ____ University. During my senior year, I worked part time as a media consultant with the local Boys and Girls Club. In the position, I redesigned the group's web page and updated or added the group to several social media accounts. The Boys and Girls Club realized a 20 percent increase in membership over the six months I handled these accounts.
This summer I have been working as an intern at _____ (company). I feel the experience I have gained is directly transferable to the position I seek. Primarily, I have worked on monitoring the company's Facebook page, and I have learned so much about what works and what does not in terms of the company's engagement with its clients.
I look forward to contributing my skills and experiences to the social media marketing position at [company]. I hope to have the opportunity to speak with you further about how I can be an asset to your team.
An e-mailed cover letter should not include every aspect of your career path thus far. Your resume will relate that information. Simply take out what piece of the puzzle shows you in a positive light and emphasize that piece.
After completing your e-mail, take the time to read it over carefully to check for typos and other errors. If possible, have a friend read it over for content and/or send it to yourself so you can see it with fresh eyes.
If you have used a hiring manager's last name in your e-mail, double-check that you have spelled it correctly. Remember what the old adage says about only having one chance to make a first impression.
Before you hit send, there is one more thing to consider. What day of the week is it? Believe it or not, the day you send your job search e-mail can have an effect on whether it is read or not.
According to research by HubSpot, Tuesdays through Thursdays are the best days of the week to send an e-mail. The hours between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. are when e-mail volume is at its peak, so sending your message first thing in the morning (by 8 a.m.) or later in the afternoon, may increase its chances of being opened. Avoid Fridays and late-night submissions.
Also, unless you just heard about the position and have no other choice, avoid sending your application at the last minute. If a job application is closing at 5 p.m. on a Friday, and you send it over at 4:55 p.m., you may be noticed and not in a good way. You may give the impression that you do things at the last minute.
Writing a professional job search e-mail takes a little time and effort, but the results are worth it. A well-written and concise e-mail reveals your sense of professionalism and your attention to detail.