How to perfect the lost art of the job-hunting email

For all the fantastical ways there may be to signpost your interest in a career, you still have to learn how to send a good job-hunting email.
Kim Connor Streich
Kim Connor Streich
Person using silver laptop

Email gets a bad rep these days. From disruptors like Slack trying to kill email dead and recruiters increasingly using tech and social channels to “listen to the kids, bro”, it seems that the ol’ job-hunting email doesn’t have a place in this world.

job-hunting email

Brenda (our community manager) and I are pretty prime examples of that whole phenomenon, having got our jobs through Twitter and Facebook respectively. But is it really time to put a fork through email and just have recruiters Snap us instead (like this university did)?

The answer is no. Like CVs, emails are an archaic but vital part of the job hunt. You’ll have to send one to your potential recruiters at some point during the process. That said, here are some tips – courtesy of careers author Jon Gregory – to ensure you don’t fall at that all-important first hurdle.

Get the structure right

job-hunting email

We’ve called this an art in the title but truthfully, it’s more of a science. It was never going to be as simple as bashing in some variation of “erm… yeah, I want a job”.

As Jon says, “When you respond to a job ad, the company is trying to recruit a professional, so be that person.” When you’re putting together the ‘meat’ per se of the email – remember to focus on two things.

  1. Why you want to work for this company rather than anyone else
  2. What you can do for them that no-one else can

Seems formulaic, but it’s more efficient to deal with a communication built around a predictable format and your potential employer will thank you. There’s still plenty of room to express yourself. And bear in mind, the person you’re writing to doesn’t know that you can fully grasp this. Show them you can be concise, yet informative, and you’ll immediately have their attention.

Format on fleek

job-hunting email

As celebrated philosophers OutKast said in the year 2000, your job-hunting email needs to be “so fresh and so clean” format-wise.

You can’t be sure what device, operating system and email client the recipient will be using, so complicated fonts and styles is an unnecessary risk. A good rule of thumb, according to Jon, “is to format for easy reading on a mobile screen as it will cover all of your bases.”

And so we say unto you, Debutants: use white space, bullets and bold typeface to your benefit, just as you would on a CV. Correct punctuation, spelling and grammar, it goes without saying, is absolutely crucial too.

Watch that tone

job-hunting email

Remember: no-one has to do anything for you, least of all reply to your email. The right wording and the proper addressing can do things for your application that your content can’t.

To get this right, it’s important to – again – air on the side of convention. You have no idea what the person on the end of your email is like. You have no idea what their pet hates or deal-breakers are. It’s best to be cautious rather than take a risk and put your foot in it

The advice Jon Gregory gives is “If you imagine how nervous and conservative you’d be, meeting your prospective in-laws for the first time, you’ll be in the right frame of mind when drafting that door-opening email.” So basically, be calm and courteous on the surface, with the fear of God’s furious wrath underneath it all.

Nail your first (and last) impression
job-hunting email

Speaking of pet hates and deal-breakers, there are so many things that can go wrong on the way in or on the way out of a job-hunting email.

Before you even get to the content, making sure your email address is set for the gruelling task. If you’re using the old Bebo e-mail from your teens for formal business messages – STOP. YOU ARE NOT READY. What potential employer wouldn’t be terrified to receive an email from [email protected]?

While we’re still on intros, using Sir/Madam when you have the name of the person you’re writing to? Not a good look. As for the sign off, stay away from abrupt or overly colloquial phrases like ‘cheers’ or ‘thoughts?’ if you like gainful employment.

Make it yours   

job-hunting email

“To make your brand bankable, you need to make yourself distinctive, genuine and interesting,” advises Jon, and he’s got a point. Crucially, email gives you the space to do that, unlike many social media and messaging apps.

Express yourself as much as you can within the structure. When you’re communicating all the information to an employer, don’t be dry about it. Get as much personality in it as you can. What do you believe in? What are your goals and how do they apply to the company? Look to answer these questions to your job-hunting email and don’t be afraid to include links to work you’ve done and social media profiles. Those quirky things you include could make all the difference.

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