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Career Advice

From Marc Cenedella
Marc Cenedella

When two candidates are equally experienced, equally credentialed, and equally capable, who gets the job?

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How to Write Great E-Mail in 8 Easy Steps

Well, folks, for better or worse, e-mail has become the Official Communication Medium for the 21st century job search. And you know, the folks you're trying to reach receive just as much e-mail as you do!

So how do you stand out in the crowd without resorting to gimmickry?

Well, I sat down with my Online Editor Jennifer Machiaverna, and our Director, CRM Michael McCurdy (who recently joined us from Match.com!) to think it through. I mean, if the three of us, who know a thing or two about e-mail, can't give you great advice, then we should just hang up our mouses and ergonomic office chairs and go do something else for a living.

We put our heads together to come up with these eight easy tips for making your e-mail radiate the message "Read Me! Read Me!" So take a good look at these tips and then let your e-mail shine on, you crazy diamond!

1) Your subject line should say why you are sending the email.
"Over-achieving Sales Executive - John Smith" is much more effective than "Responding to job post". Putting your name in your subject line will help the hiring manager, who's already strapped for time, stay organized. And providing a theme - with just a tiny bit of self-promotion, will remind them why it's important to read your email.

2) Cut to the chase. Quickly.
"I'm writing to apply for the Senior Manager, Logistics position as my 20 years in logistics with Wal-Mart and Target make me a great fit for your company"... is the right way to start off your e-mail. Put all the details into later paragraphs. This is super-helpful in this "Age of Blackberry" so that your recipient doesn't need to scroll down or select "more" to get the full message. (As a side note, I frankly personally prefer the simple present tense "I write to apply..." versus the present progressive tense "I am writing to apply..." but most people find that a bit quirky and formal, so use at your discretion!)

3) Use bold, sparingly, to accentuate words that you'd like emphasized.

4) Number or alpha-bullet points.
When you have 8, 9, or 31 different points and they are undifferentiated, it is very difficult for your reader to sort through them or ask follow up questions. Use a), b), c) or 1), 2), 3) to break up the email, clarify your main points, and make responding to you easy.

5) Attach with caution!
MS Word documents are the safest form for resume attachments. Always send your resume as a .doc or .txt unless a recruiter specifically requests otherwise. While formats like PDF's may seem harmless, Adobe isn't nearly as common as MS Office. They've been known to unexpectedly crash systems and generally take a few seconds longer to download and open than Word documents. Don't give a recruiter a single reason to throw your correspondence in the trash bin. If a recruiter or job listing specifically says "no attachments", be sure to follow the rules!

6) Include a clear "call to action".
In the e-mail biz, a "call to action" is just that - your request that the reader of your e-mail do something. Well, what do you want the reader to do and in what timeframe?

Be very clear about your expectation or request - "So can you please confirm our phone interview for 2 p.m. on Thursday, April 6th?" And, in turn, be very clear about the actions you're going to take, being as specific as is humanly possible:
"I followed up with Lindsay and she's requested additional references from my time at Apple. I'll have those to her by
4 p.m. Wednesday."

7) Delete every word that is not absolutely essential.
After you've written an e-mail, please go back through and delete every single word that is not absolutely essential to achieving your meaning. Just like everybody else, recruiters don't have time to read through wordy cover letters, so keep it simple!

For example, you might replace:

"I am an award-winning sales executive who has proven on numerous occasions to greatly increase the productivity of employees under me and raise revenue company-wide"

With the much shorter and more meaningful:

"Increased company revenue by 70%".

The person who writes e-mails with the fewest words is my hero!

8) Check out what George Orwell, author of "1984" and "Animal Farm", has to say on the topic.

So, Readers, there's advice from me and my colleagues on writing great e-mail. Follow it and our recruiter friends and your contacts will silently thank you.

And, say, if you have your own e-mail tips let us know and we'll publish the best ones in next Wednesday's Executive Coach!

Good luck with the job hunt this week, Readers... I'm rooting for ya!

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