Friday, June 24, 2011

Are your emails ignored? Try This-

Most people get blown off because their e-mails are shabby, poorly written, meandering, and a waste of time.

And that's because most e-mail ignores the needs of the audience and fails to answer the simplest question: why should the recipient of this e-mail care, understand, know, and agree with what you're saying?

It's probably no surprise that this is the case because they don't teach "Writing Great E-mail" in college (or, really, in business either). That's sad, because it ends up costing lost time in your job and in your job search.

I don't want this to happen to you, so I've collected my ten best tips on writing great e-mail below:

1) Your subject line should say why you are sending the email.

"Over-achieving Operating Executive - David Weaver" is much more effective than "Responding to job post".

This may sound obvious, but please, do not send e-mails to the HR department at, say, Amazon with the subject line, or document name, "Application for Amazon job". They know you're applying to Amazon, and this makes it easy for your email to get lost or ignored.

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 Mobile -- your recipient will probably see the email on her or his iPhone, Blackberry or laptop first, so you need to make it easy for them to read and understand your message while they're on the go.

3) Number or alpha-bullet points.

When you have 8 different points and you list them all in a row without numbers or letters in front of them, it is very difficult for your reader to respond in an organized way.

Use a) b) c) or 1) 2) 3) to break up the email, clarify your main points, and make responding to you easy.

4) Be concise.*

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

6) 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 PDFs may seem harmless, Adobe isn't as widely accepted as MS Office. Don't give a recruiter a single reason to throw your correspondence in the trash bin. And if a recruiter or job listing specifically says "no attachments", be sure to follow the rules!

7) Two-dollar words, please.

William Faulkner said about Ernest Hemingway: "He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary."

Hemingway retorted: "Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?"

While these two Nobel Prize winners might have an interesting debate on words and art, when it comes to your e-mails, you should avoid the long, confusing, "ten dollar" words. They're too tough to read and understand:

"I am a seasoned, world-class operating executive who redefines value-added metrics to leverage world-class retention strategies and synergizes cutting-edge partnership implementations to achieve innovative relationships."

Now, c'mon, you know you've heard stuff like this come out of your mouth, on accident, on occasion, so just let this be a friendly reminder that keeping it simple is the best way to keep your e-mails successful.

8) Make your request clear.

When writing back and forth by e-mail, it is very easy for vague words to cause confusion. Do not do use vague words, but rather make it clear what you want the reader to do and in what timeframe by being precise:

"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 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."

9) 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 today, 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%."

Fewer words means more likely to be read!

10) Read the superb thoughts of George Orwell, author of "1984" and "Animal Farm", in this classic 1946 essay: "Politics and the English Language."

*4), revisited: "Be concise" communicates everything I want you to know about communicating with brevity. In the interests of teaching, however, I'll explain a bit further: every excess, useless, stuffed-shirt word that you pour into your e-mail makes it more likely that your e-mail will be ignored. Forgotten. Deleted.

I do not want this to happen to you. So please, being concise means making your point and then making the recruiter's day by letting them get back to their work.
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