Despite statistical evidence insisting on our collective hatred of both sending and reading emails, they remain the dominant form of business communication by a significant margin. This very same context presents several unique challenges.
Not unlike texting, a lot of nuance gets amputated in that pinched little digital box we all love to loathe. However, where texting allows for some goodwill, the emails that matter most demand a degree of formality that in turn eliminates any and all casual margins. Of course, you don’t want to come across like a pencil-necked cheese worm that labors over every word and sentence. So exactly how does one convey authority, charisma, and eloquence with enough pace to keep the larger share of potential employers engaged until the sign-off?
Luckily Ladders has procured a lifetime’s worth of receipts; analyzing each with scrutiny between seasons of The Good Place. Below, enjoy the fruits of our labor in the form of a step by step guide to crafting the perfect introductory email. We’ll even throw in some tips on follow up emails if you promise to read till the end.
The average professional receives just about 147 emails a day and spends roughly two hours in that span reading through them (some of them.) This digital surplus welcomes any reason to put as many messages on the pay no mind list that we possibly can. Correspondence lives and dies by the subject line-the clean and politely urgent advertisement for your recipient’s precious time. Unfortunately, there are certain blunders that we mistakenly include in our subject lines all of the time that dramatically reduce response rates.
For instance, through exhaustive research, the email practices advisory firm, Saleloft, recently determined that subject lines that include numbers are 32% less likely to receive responses compared to those that do not. This might seem oddly specific but a good rule of thumb favors simplicity at every turn. No symbols or anything that will make the recipient think that they’ll have to concentrate to reply to your email sufficiently. Remember most emails that get set aside for later remain in docket purgatory.
On balance, emails with subject lines containing just one word were 87% more likely to get responded to save instances where the sender intends their email as a greeting. Greetings earn a sizable response rate boost when two words are applied. “Hey” is the most effective leading word, securing a 23% boost when this is followed by the recipient’s name.’ If you don’t know the recipient’s name, find out, if you can’t “there” is your best bet.
Since we’re on the topic of specifics, subject lines that feature the word “referred” enjoy a staggering 536% boost to reply rates compared to the average email. Of course, this requires a name to boot, I don’t imagine “Referred by someone” carries the same weight as it does when attended by a person with a relevant title.
Whatever you do, as far as several decorated experts are concerned, never open an email with “Dear,” “Sir,” “Madam,” “To whom it may concern,” or “Happy Monday.” These run the gamut of too formal and too generic.
The rules are a little vaguer when it comes to the body of an email. Once you’ve got the reader’s attention, keeping it is dependent on what you want from them and what they need from you. Whatever is you want, it’s best to state it as plainly as possible. The temptation here will be to mistake density for sophistication. It’s gunslinger rules. The best hand in the saloon is always the one that keeps quiet until there’s something to be said. If you’re like me and have a pension for panicking and vomiting archaic words to ill-effect, a helpful trick is to write like a third grader…seriously.
A recent Boomerang study revealed that email bodies written at a third-grade reading level are 36% more likely to get responses compared to emails written at a college level, and 17% more likely than emails written at a high school reading level. The same study also located the length-sweet spot to be between 50 and 125 words. Any more than this tends to create an overwhelming Vultrone of words, tempting the reader to abandon your verbiage in favor of a more laconic applicant.
Sticking the landing comes down to a cocktail of subtle flattery and a sober advertisement of engagement. One of the best ways to achieve this is by including a question. Preferably a question only an interested candidate would think to ask that is concurrently a question that only a well-informed, qualified employer could meaningfully answer.
Emails that include a question are 50% more likely to get responded to.
Followup emails are good. Everyone knows that. It’s the how and when that’s tricky. The fact that they’re innate parts of the employment hustle sort of softens the inherently pestering nature of them. A good followup email should reside closer to eagerness than desperation. The best way to elude the former is by ensuring your motivations are clearly articulated. Skip the perfunctory pleasantries. Be polite obviously but not at the expense of being direct.
Ask a Manager’s Alison Green believes follow-up emails should always include a time frame that the sender can expect to hear back from the recipient. This is brilliant because it forces silence to speak both loudly and timely. If you manage to receive a time frame from a recruiter, make sure to double the length in your head, because the majority of recruiters take about twice as long as they say theywill to get back to applicants. This covers the how now how about the when?
We only have so much control over how we’re perceived, which elects statistics as our only reliable rubric for social grace. If you applied for a job yesterday and are nervously hovering over the send button on a followup email, it might help to know that a recent survey of hiring managers deemed two weeks to be an effective time to circle back.
Oh and another expert tip from author and Linkedin influencer, Jeff Haden: never open a follow-up email with the phrase: “I thought I would circle back.”