Whether emails are sent to apply for an advertised job, or to network with a potential employer, job searchers tell me that it is a struggle to get their message noticed among the floods of emails arriving in the inbox of employers.
I have always contended that, in many ways, job search is an entrepreneurial activity; job searchers are often called on to market their skills to employers in the same way a salesperson would market a product to a customer. I was reminded of this recently, as I was reading Get Customers to Read Emails: 7 Tricks in Inc., one of my favourite websites for entrepreneurs and business owners. The tips offered by the author are similar to those I offer job searchers.
Just as entrepreneurs struggle to get their product to stand out in a crowded marketplace, one of the biggest challenges facing job searchers is to be noticed among the dozens (sometime hundreds) of other applicants for the same job. With an economy that has resulted in massive increases in the ratio of job searchers to jobs, employers have told me that they struggle to sort through all the applications they receive, and often don’t even get to see them all. Job searchers are well aware of this; they know that even though they might have the skills and background that perfectly match the required qualifications for a particular job, they don’t necessarily get called for an interview.
These days, getting any email noticed is a challenge. The Radicati Group, a technology market research firm, reported that “Most of the world’s email traffic comes from the corporate world. In 2012, the number of businesses emails sent and received per day total 89 billion. This figure is expected to grow at an average annual rate of 13% over the next four years, reaching over 143 billion by year-end 2016.” People tend to respond to the flood of emails arriving in their inbox by skimming, prioritising and deleting. This means that you have to present your email to employers in such a way that they attract and keep their attention long enough for them to open the attached resume and cover letter.
Some tips for getting your emails noticed:
1. Make sure to send the email to the correct person
If it’s a job application to an advertised position, follow the instructions as provided in the posting. If it is unsolicited, do your utmost to identify the best person (remember that the HR department is not always the best target; hiring decisions often happen at middle management level). Keep in mind that it is unlikely that an email which is sent to the wrong person will be forwarded to the correct person, especially if it is from someone who the intended person does not know.
2. Try to approach the employer through a referral
A person is more likely to open an email from someone they know. So, if you have a contact who is willing to refer you to a potential employer, ask them to forward your email to them on your behalf (and to “cc” you).
3. Use the subject line of the email to attract attention
When a person is scrolling through a whole lot of emails, they are going to make a quick decision based on the subject line. This means that you have to pay careful attention to what you say in that one line:
- If you were referred to the job by someone the employer knows, mention their name in the subject line
- If your email is in response to a job posting, put job title in the subject line
- If you were not referred and there’s no specific job, use the subject line to introduce yourself in a way that may be relevant to employer; e.g. “a highly experienced Accounting Clerk seeking new opportunity with (company name)”. Or you could specify a skill you think that employer values; e.g. “Fluently bilingual speaker, seeking challenging new customer service position”.
5. Remember email previews
Keep in mind that email programs often show the first few lines of an email. Make sure to write your email to that your first few lines capture the reader’s interest.
4. Write concise and pointed emails
There are many perspectives about whether a cover letter needs to be attached to an email, or simply included in the body of the email. Personally, I recommend that you write a cover letter and attach it to the email, with your resume. This means that you still need to write a brief note in the body of the email to encourage the reader to open the attachments. Keep it brief and focused: “Please find attached, my resume and cover letter, in response to your posting for a _____ position on __________. As you will note on my resume, I am a highly skilled _____________ with a background in _________, and solid skills in ________, _________ and __________” (insert your brief bio/7 second elevator speech here).”
Thank them for their attention and offer them your phone number, in case your attachments do not open.
Until a more effective tool is invented, email continues to be a popular form of communication and a useful way to make connections.This does mean that every email you send to a busy person is at risk of not being noticed. All you can do is your best to make it noticeable, using the above tips, and to remember that you need to use as many tools as are available in your job search tool box, including voicemail, email, LinkedIn and in person networking opportunities.