Career Advice

How to Write a Great Job Application Email

Woman writing a job application email

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.

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).

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.’

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.’

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