Although many employers require you to apply to a position via applicant tracking software, it's still fairly common to send a job application email instead. And when you send this email, your pitch had better be good — it is your ‘foot in the door’, after all, and you only get one chance to make a first impression.
HR professionals and hiring managers are often besieged by emails, so those that fail to grab their attention immediately are likely to be ignored. To ensure your job application email gets a response, follow these dos and don'ts.
Here are the points that we will cover in this article:
How to Send a Job Application Email
Before you start writing your job application email, make a shortlist of the information you need in order to get it right. This includes basic information like:
- Finding a company (or companies) you want to apply to
- Checking for open vacancies (or make a speculative application)
- Finding the right contact (e.g. a named individual or an applications address)
- Checking what attachments (and what file formats) to include (e.g. your CV)
- Sending from a professional-sounding email address you can reply from in future
These five points will help you to set out the necessary information so that you can put together the different parts of your email, from the metadata (sender's and recipient's email address) through to the content of the email itself (cover letter) and the attachments (usually your CV).
Tips for Writing a Job Application Email
Subject Line Tips
Do: Write a great subject line. Many emails are read on smartphones, which may show only about 30 characters in the subject line, so the message must be as tightly conveyed as possible.
Include the word 'application', plus your name, the job title and any vacancy ID code, e.g., 'Linda Whitney, Application: account manager (33441)'. Add qualifications if the vacancy specifies them, e.g., 'Peter Davies BSc: Application, Pharmacist (4425)'. If you can market yourself briefly, do it, e.g., 'Application: Mary Evans, Experienced Occupational Therapist, vacancy 4431'.
Don't: be vague. Hirers search their inboxes looking for individual names, roles or job ID numbers, so a subject line that says just 'job application' or ‘response to advertisement’ risks not being found.
Do: Include the name of any mutual contact that referred you for the position. Put it in the subject line, e.g.: Janice Smith referral: Peter Golightly for Data Analyst job (4432).
Email Introduction Tips
Do: Address the hirer respectfully. Start with 'Dear', then the name of the person who is mentioned in the vacancy (if available). If there is no name given, try searching for the right contact on LinkedIn — if all else fails, you can always write 'Dear Sir or Madam'.
Don't: Start with 'Hi' or 'Hey'. This is not an email to a friend, so don’t make the mistake of being over-familiar.
Do: State the basics in line one, e.g. 'Please find enclosed my application for the job of deputy manager, operations.' If you have been referred, start by saying it, such as 'Jennifer James, your former colleague at [company name] recommended I contact you about the vacancy for the XYZ position.'
What to Include in the Email
Do: Market yourself. In line or paragraph two, state briefly why you are a good match for the vacancy. Note that this is not stating why you want the job — instead, it should be about why the employer should want you.
Say, for instance: 'I have had three years of experience in operations and recently completed a Diploma in Operations Management, so I think I can help [company name] establish your new department.' If you are in a sector where worth is judged by income generation, then mention how much money you have generated, e.g., 'I am an experienced business developer having brought in £150,000 of new business in the last 18 months.'
Don't: Regurgitate your whole CV, talk about how you think it is time to move up the career ladder (remember it's about how you can benefit them), or gush emptily about how much you love their company — it sounds insincere.
Do: Add a third line that is a call to action and gives your contact details, eg, 'To discuss how we might work together please call me on…' Give your mobile as well as a landline number.
Do: Sign off politely, using 'Yours sincerely'.
Don't: Send your job application email off immediately. First, check for spelling and grammar errors, and then return to the job ad to see if you have addressed the key points that the employer is looking for.
Do: Attach your CV, labelled with your first and surname and the term 'CV'.
Don't: Send it as a Word file, as these can be distorted by differing versions of Office. Avoid other formats such as HTML, BMP, EPS or ZIP files. If you are applying for a creative or tech job and need to send links to your work, such as videos or websites, include links in the main body of the job application email.
Do: Send it as a PDF, as most systems can open these.
Making a speculative application? Most of the same guidelines apply, but first, research the right person to approach (if necessary, you can call the company and ask. Sending emails to general mailboxes such as info@... can be doomed to failure.
The first line of your speculative job application email should explain why you are making the on-spec application, for example, 'I have read in the news that you are opening a new branch close to my home and recruiting new staff, so I am sending my CV as my experience as an operations manager may be useful to you.'
Job Application Email Templates
It helps to have a general structure for job application emails in mind. We'll avoid going into specific details in these job application email templates - that depends on the role you're applying for - but we'll look at some tips when applying for different types of jobs.
Internships and Graduate Jobs
Be professional, even for entry-level roles. If you know the hiring manager's name, start with "Dear Mr/Ms..." followed by their surname. For academic internships, look out for honorific titles e.g. Dr/Professor and make sure you use the correct title.
Say what attracted you to the role. It's likely you have little to no relevant career history, so include a brief summary of any experience you do have or soft skills that make you a good candidate for the role.
Keep it brief overall and end with an expectation: do you want a reply by email or telephone, or would you like a face-to-face meeting? Also, point out any attachments such as your CV, and explain why you have attached them.
Sign off with a formal and/or friendly ending. You might choose 'Yours sincerely' or you might prefer 'Best wishes' depending on how business-like you want to sound.
For a more senior role, you might want to highlight specific relevant experience from your career history, or any professional qualifications and accreditations you hold.
It's good to keep a formal tone, but depending on who's doing the hiring, it might be more appropriate to address the recipient as an equal - for example, if you're applying for a senior departmental role via an HR department or recruitment executive.
For the same reason, you might want to sign off with a less formal 'Best wishes' unless your application is going directly to someone more senior than yourself, in which case 'Yours sincerely' or an equivalent option might be better.
When You Have an Internal Contact
If you've been approached by someone within the organisation or you're applying directly to somebody you already know, it might be acceptable to be more informal.
You could start with a brief mention of how you know the person (e.g. 'It was good to talk to you at the recent convention...') so that they remember you and why you are contacting them directly.
Again keep it brief and focus on specific relevant qualifications, experience and attributes, as well as reiterating anything they expressed an interest in during your last meeting - don't assume they will remember you in detail unless they are a close family friend.
This is arguably the case where you can use the most relaxed sign-off, as well as using first names rather than surnames and honorific titles, but try to judge this carefully on a case-by-case basis so you can make the right impression.