It should come as a surprise to absolutely no one that email has become very important to the job-search process. How important? According to James M. Citrin of the top executive-recruiting and consulting firm Spencer Stuart, emails are right up there with cover letters, and they might even be more important. In other words: Think before you type.
In a terrific Time post titled “How to Write Emails That Will Land You a Job,” Citrin shares advice on crafting strong subject lines, intros, and more. As he says, “every interaction by email is an opportunity to move your job search process forward by one small but concrete step,” so read his tips carefully.
1. Respond Right Away — If you just got home from a date with someone, you wouldn’t call or email instantly, but as Citrin writes, jobseeking ain’t the same thing as dating. As soon as you finish a phone conversation or an in-person interview, follow up with an email. It’s entirely possible the person won’t get back to you right away, but they’ll be impressed at your speediness.
2. Mind the Subject Line — The idea of a subject line, Cirtin writes, is to get the other person to open and read your email, so think carefully about how you use this space. You want to communicate who you are and why you’re writing, and if you have a shared contact or collegiate connection, work that into your text. One good example Citrin gives: “ESPN Internship Application – Douglas Spector.”
3. Get Right to the Point — You’ll probably want to open with something like, “I hope this finds you in good health,” Cirtin writes, but after you’ve dispensed with the pleasantries, tell the person why you’re contacting them. If it’s your first contact, try something like, “I’d like to learn more about accounting.” If you’ve chatted before, you might write, “Thanks again for taking the time to speak with me last week. As you suggested, I did XYZ…”
4. Keep It Short and Readable — People are busy these days. The person you’re emailing is probably reading on a smart phone — or at least that should be the assumption, Citrin writes. Keep your message to a succinct, to-the-point 10 lines, and use an 11- or 12-point font, so that it’s readable.
5. Maintain Perspective — You know how you get a ton of email? Just think about how many messages likely flood the inboxes of influential people like the one you’re trying to contact. If you don’t hear back right away, or if you get a short response, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve been cast aside. As Citrin writes, you shouldn’t shy away from following up, and even if the other person winds up telling you they’re not interested in hiring or talking with you, don’t write them off forever. You might try them again later. Whatever you do, don’t lose your cool and fire off some angry missive “in the heat of the moment.” It could easily be forwarded to other people and hurt your chances elsewhere.