Use E-Mail Strategically to Land a Job

Martin Yate By Martin Yate June 30, 2020
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business woman checking email on smartphone

​By late May of this year, approximately 40 million people had filed for unemployment benefits due to the coronavirus pandemic. With much of the workforce unexpectedly job hunting, the little things you do—or don't do—can make a big difference. In our current economic climate, professionals who rely on active job-search tactics get back to work quickly.

What Gets the Best Results

The quickest route between points A and B is a straight line, and in a job search, the equivalent of that straight line is reaching out directly to hiring managers and recruiters via e-mail.  

Many of us get junk e-mail that we delete as quickly as we can, and we make the decision to delete based on the sender's name and the subject line. When you send an e-mail directly to hiring managers, your e-mail address and subject line are the first things seen—meaning you have the opportunity to grab their attention immediately.

Your E-mail Address Identifies You

One of the first things any recruiter or manager sees is your e-mail address. Now is the time to create a professional e-mail address and save the one you created when you were a kid or in college for corresponding with friends. Don't let an adolescent e-mail address detract from your professional reputation.

If you can't use your name as your e-mail address because someone else has already claimed it, try a profession-oriented e-mail address, such as TopAccountant@gmail.com. This offers some idea of who is reaching out and what you are reaching out about.

To make your e-mail address unique, try adding your area code (TopAccountant516@gmail.com), ZIP code (TopAccountant31405@gmail.com) or town (TopAccountantSeaCliff@gmail.com). Or be industry-specific: TopAccountantInsurance@gmail.com, and try combinations of the above, such as Top516AccountantInsurance@gmail.com, which would tell a Long Island, N.Y., employer that you are a top accountant living locally. E-mail addresses such as these offer useful information to an employer in your local target market but will rarely be noticed by someone outside of that geography. Using a profession-oriented e-mail address succinctly introduces you, and, because it refers to a job rather than your name, it has the added benefit of helping to protect your identity.

Your Subject Line Is a Condensed Resume

To recruiters and hiring managers buried in junk mail, the right subject line can make the difference between your e-mail getting read or tossed. Incoming e-mail typically reveals a subject-line preview, showing anywhere between 30 and 60 characters, so you have enough space to sell critical skills. Try to get the must-haves of your headline in the first 35 characters. Here, you sell "qualified candidate" and critical, hard-to-find skills, for example: Your next Reg HR Manager—EEOC, FLSA.

However, once opened, an e-mail subject line shows more text, sometimes up to 150 characters. Make this space work for you as an abbreviated resume by showcasing the highlights of your resume. The following example uses 129 characters, including spaces, and my e-mail showed me 120 of these characters: Experienced HR Management—EEOC, FLSA, ADA, OSHA; 10 years arbitration, campus, executive recruitment, selection, compensation, T&D.

By applying this thinking to your job search, you are approaching employers much more directly and selectively, and you have turned your e-mail address and subject line into the world's shortest job-targeted resume. It will get you results.

Best-selling author Martin Yate, a career coach and former HR professional, takes your questions each week about how to further your career in HR.

From big issues to small, please feel free to e-mail your queries to YourCareerQA@shrm.org. We'll only publish your first name and city, unless you prefer to remain anonymous—just let us know.

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