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IT Jobseekers: How to Write an Email That Gets a Reply

How To Build A Professional Network From Scratch

Think of it this way: every hour, 122,500,453,020 emails are sent across the globe, and in a single day, the average office worker receives a whopping 121 emails. As a jobseeker, that means during an eight-hour workday, a hiring manager or recruiter receives an email every four minutes. If your point of contact is busy getting work done, many of those emails are going to go unopened.

38% of Americans check their email 10 times or more daily, and recruiters and HR professionals are on the high end of this statistic. You're going to be competing with a lot of other people to get your message acknowledged. If you want to win over the competition, you'll need an edge.

Study Your Audience

Make a strong and memorable impression by researching your contact before writing the email. Connect on Linkedin to see what their interests are, learn details about their company, understand their career focus, and get a feel for who they are outside of work. In a nutshell, stalk them. Professionally.

The best way to let your reader know you care about talking to them is by showing that you took the time to do your research. Personalize your email and clearly state what they can help you with. Use your research to enhance your networking, which will in turn help build your career.

To share a little inside tip, some recruiters won't even read your resume. That means they're building their entire opinion of you based on your job title, how your interview goes, and even what you say in emails. In some cases, they may not even care about your experience -- your soft skills could be what they're most interested in.

Make it or Break it: Subject Lines

Before you can get a response, you’ll need to get your email opened. 33% of email recipients will open your message based on the subject line. If you can't provide them with value quickly and effectively, they have to protect their time and move on.

When it comes to subject lines, there are three general rules:

  • Make it personal. Weeks or months into a job hunt, it's easy to fall into a groove where all your emails begin to sound alike. Recruiters and HR experts will pick up on that right away, and it's going to make you look disengaged. The bottom line is this: an impersonal subject line gets a 50% engagement rate. A personalized one? 73%.
  • Use six or less words. Your subject line is not your main content -- keep it short and simple. Once you're connected with your recruiter, be easy to work with by making your subject lines short and sweet. Instead of writing something like “This is the resume I would like to send to x and y company for the z job listing”, write something that can be immediately understood like "Resume: Sharleen King, Plantation Financial Position".
  • Important words go first. With only six or less words to work with, it's vital that your reader sees the most important words first. Most mobile phones will cut a subject line off at around 33-38 characters. 68% B2C email activity is via a smartphone. If the most important words are cut off, your message is lost.

The Worst Ways To End Your Email

  • “Yours Faithfully” - Too much, too soon
  • “TTYL”- Keep it professional
  • “Sent From …” - Keep it professional, but strive for a human element

What Do You Want?

Don't waste anyone's time with an email guessing game. Tell them exactly what you would like, whether it be a meeting, or help with a resume.

Carson Tate, author of Work Simply, has great tips on how to say exactly what you want in an email. She says that one of the best ways to craft an effective email is to answer four questions: who, what, why, and how.

  • Who? Who are you sending this email to? If it’s more than one person, make sure to CC the other reader(s) into it.
  • What? What's the purpose of this email? Clearly state your needs and wants. Make sure to include all necessary details so your reader is not confused by your message. Before sending, always check to make sure you did not leave something out.
  • Why? Why does your contact need this information? This question answers how to properly format it, and what tone you need to take.
  • How? How do you want your contact to respond? Put in your call to action. Let your reader know if they should call you or email you back, and when is best to contact you. Give them correct and updated contact information.

An unclear email is less likely to get a response because your recruiter will be unsure how to respond. Make it a win-win for both parties by leaving the guesswork out, and getting to the point!

All About That Format

When formatting your email, remember that you want this read. Don’t turn your audience off with weird or unprofessional fonts, colors, and sizes.

Think of this email as literature: Forbes compares good emails to having the same structure as a classic essay — with an opening, body, and conclusion. Neglect one of these, and the email may come off too casually or poorly written.

The Opening: Instead of using a generic greeting, personalize your greeting with the name of your contact. This subtle move helps you connect with them on a more personal level, and humanizes your interaction. Show your soft skills by being cheerful and friendly, while clearly and quickly letting them know the purpose of the email.

The Body: Keep the body of your email clear and concise. It’s an email, not a novel -- the reader will not care about your beautiful prose. Where possible, make your content skimmable, using bulleted lists and formatting, with just enough to let them get the gist.

The Conclusion: Have your email signature set up professionally with your full name, phone number, Linkedin account, and any of your professional websites. Let your reader know the best way to reach you. Be proactive about getting to the next step (or asking them what the next step is, if you're not sure), to help walk you and your recruiter or HR contact through the process.

5 Ways To Fail At Email

  • Addressing your email to “HR manager” instead of finding out who'll be reading it.
  • Using an unprofessional email domain, or one that does not use your name (Think: voltron66@geocities.com).
  • Not proofing for spelling mistakes, and/or forgetting to include the attachments.
  • Providing good times to call, but with no time zone (What if you're on the east coast, and they're on the west?)
  • Not referencing the position and company when responding. Don't make them work to remember who you are!

You + Phones = Compatible?

Mobile technology has taken over. Pew Research Center has found that over 68% of US adults own a smartphone - up 35% from four years prior (and doesn't that number seem low?). Using mobile email has increased since 2011 by 40%, and using a desktop for email has decreased by 36% since 2011.

The takeaway is this: make sure that whatever emailing service you use is smartphone compatible, or the display will load incorrectly. 71% of email recipients will delete an email if the display isn't right on their phone. While we hope that your recruiter (or potential future boss) wouldn't delete an email due to something that simple, we'll all sleep better if you play it safe.

According to Geek Squad, the best mobile emailing service is Gmail. Gmail connects on any device, is compatible with IOS, Android, and just about anything else worth its salt. Gmail also has a large amount of email storage - 15 GB. The runner-up to Gmail? Outlook. Originally owned by hotmail.com, Outlook was taken over by Microsoft and is now available in over 100 languages.

Along with that, the vertical height should be about 650 pixels. If you're using a logo, make sure it's no wider than 300-320 pixels. Any more than that in either direction, and your signature is larger than a typical mobile screen.

Final Note: Desperation is Not Sophisticated

So what happens if you don't get a reply? It’s okay to send a follow-up email to make sure they received it and it wasn’t lost. However, don’t forget the difference between interest and desperation: if you send them several messages after they didn’t respond to one email, you're going to set off some red flags. These things take time, and your hunger for that opportunity may leave you feeling impatient. Have faith that your email will be answered, or find a better way of communicating your message if enough time has passed.

Whatever you do, keep your message professional, to the point, and with all the details. Not only will you get a better return rate, but you'll also earn a higher opinion with those you're emailing.