Get your emails opened

While many job applications go through a secure employment or recruiter website, some do not. In instances where you’ll be sending an email, typically you’ll submit a cover letter and resume and send it directly to a hiring manager. Like snail mail before it, email presents its own challenges and opportunities. First among these, whether you have your eye on a specific opening or not, is getting your response opened.

How you address the peculiarities of email can either align with your job search strategy or work against it.

Make no mistake, all the components of a well-planned job search are fundamentally marketing documents. That goes for your resume or cover letter and, first and foremost, the email you send to introduce yourself. The job of your initial email is to get opened by the person whose primary motivation is to eliminate as many emails as possible. If the first thing the recipient sees isn’t strong, the cover letter and attachments might not even get opened.

Here are some basic ways to strengthen your initial email pitch and boost the chance of getting the consideration you want:

  • Addresses that provide relevance: People notice two things before deciding whether to open your email or put it in the “no” folder: Who it’s from and what the subject line says. If someone in HR is receiving dozens of emails per hour, you want yours to be from an account that gets a head start on relevance. Include something about your work, your industry or your location. Or all three. As an example, an attorney specializing in condominium law in the Tampa area might pitch work through an address like Commonly accepted abbreviations are fine, as long as their meaning is clear. If the identity you want is already claimed, add numerals that represent your area code or zip code.

  • Go for professionalism: If you’re like most people, you’ve probably got multiple email accounts. Some might be for dialing up the cuteness factor (, or might include other family members’ names ( Do not use these for pitch letters. They distract the recipient, and while they might humanize you, they don’t make you seem professional. And professionalism is what you want to convey. Your email should come from an account that screams, “Hire This Person!” With so many free email providers available, serious job seekers should consider creating an email account just for the occasion.

  • Compelling subject lines: Direct marketing firms have been honing this skillset for years, with short, clever lines about the product or service they’re selling. If you’re seeking a job, try a more recipient-focused approach that informs instead of one that teases.

  • Are you applying for a specific job that’s posted somewhere? Include the reference number.

  • What’s your most compelling selling point? Length of experience? Education level? Include it in the subject line if it fits.

  • Can you drop a familiar name? Include that. In this example, you might come up with some variation of: “Referred by Joe Smith: MBA with 12 years’ experience interested in #AB-4321.”

If you’re looking for work, and you’re using email as a delivery vehicle, it helps to use every scrap of insight available to get yourself noticed. Try these techniques for raising the chance that your pitch will get opened.