January 26, 2011
Can you find what's wrong with this job-seeker's e-mail?
When I do one-on-one coaching with my clients, I try to think of connections in my network who can help them in their quest to find new employment. When making connections, I have my clients write me an e-mail that they want me to send as part of my introduction. This gives them a chance to articulate their positioning, while giving me a chance to see if their method is aligned with our teaching.
A recent client made some mistakes, and we were both grateful that they were caught on our end before going out to someone in my network. This is the letter my client drafted to my connection, who works at the company my client was targeting. (This connection is not a hiring manager at the company). Here is how the e-mail read:
"Happy New Year! I met with Paul recently and he mentioned that he thought you would be a great connection for me, and specifically I would like to be connected to you for a couple of reasons. I am very actively pursuing positions at (your company) and so far I have had a promising interview .... The hiring process seems to be a little complicated and I would like to have you as a resource so that you may be able to provide me with insight when things seem confusing. In addition, I have been networking with jobseekers in the area so I may be able to help connect you if/when you are looking for jobseekers with specific skill sets. Thanks for your time!!"
How would you critique this letter?
It may help to look at a more succinct summary of what this letter essentially says: "The hiring process looks complicated so I would love to have you dissect that for me. In return, I know a ton of people out of work and I can introduce you to them!"
As I mentioned, the person addressed in this letter isn't a hiring manager, so the generosity of meeting other unemployed people isn't going to be very appealing. Second, this person isn't an expert on the company's hiring practices, so asking for that expertise would be outside her jurisdiction.
In addition to these two issues, the e-mail isn't personable (it's about the job seeker, not about the contact). It's cold and network-like.
Finally, it includes a quid pro quo -- if you give me something, I'll give you something -- which is one of the things people dislike so much about networking.
So, how could my client fix the e-mail above?
Primarily, he should make it about the other person and employ genuine flattery. An example would be:
"Happy New Year! I met with Paul recently and was very impressed with your background. He shared how hard you've worked to advance your career, build your personal brand, and get connected within your company. I am looking to step into your shoes someday and would love to hear your thoughts on how you made yourself successful. May I contact you for a brief informational interview at your convenience? Thank you for your time."
Even though my client is asking for help, he's also flattering my connection and has a much higher chance of getting a response. Second, he's not offering anything to her yet because he hasn't met her. Finally, this message is personable and all about the other person.
Next time, before you send an e-mail, ask yourself, "Is my message about the person I'm trying to reach, or is it about me? Am I offering something prematurely when I haven't yet met this person? If I decide to offer something (to peak their motivation to respond), is it of high value and do I understand their needs?"
Generally speaking, I would not offer to provide something in return until much later down the road when you have a clear understanding of the other person's objective.
Do you have another idea for my client? How can he tailor his message to get more responses from introductory e-mails?
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
Paul Anderson helps professionals in transition find their desired employment.
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