If you’re looking for a job, your first step may be to peruse job boards. While it’s a tried-and-true method, a growing number of jobs are “hidden,” as more companies move to employee referrals and professional networks for sourcing qualified candidates more quickly, according to a study by Jobvite. If you don’t have an inside connection, you may think finding these leads is a matter of pure luck. However, it’s possible to get into the talent pipeline via the hiring manager’s inbox.
“The reality is that a lot of markets and industries are in constant flux and chaos,” says Ivan Shovkoplias, head of content for Resume.io, an online résumé builder. “Many companies reorganize slower than needs appear, and openings aren’t anticipated by managers. Also, the infrastructure for job listings is not up to speed with what companies need. The world is changing faster than the tools.”
To get in front of a hiring manager, you could spend time cold-emailing and networking, but one of the best methods is by cultivating a deep knowledge of the industry. “Depending on the industry or location, there’s usually a rumor mill,” Shovkoplias says. “You may become aware that some companies are hiring more than others. You may be aware that certain industries are on the rise and need specialists. There are multiple ways of finding out.”
Another good tool is research, including reading industry journals and company blogs. “Research is good even if it’s open source,” Shovkoplias says. “It can give you a superficial leg up.”
Identify the Right Person
Once you’ve got a lead on a company that might be hiring, you need to determine the right person to contact. You’ll want to identify a hiring manager as well as the manager of the department in which you’d be working.
“A manager may be able to walk your résumé to HR and be an ambassador,” Shovkoplias says. LinkedIn’s search tool is a good place to find appropriate people. Once you’ve got names, use a tool like Hunter.io to dig up their email addresses.
Write a Good Subject Line
Your subject line needs to get through spam filters, and Shovkoplias recommends using some proven email marketing tactics. “Avoid a long subject line or overuse of caps,” he says. “The golden standard is below 60 characters and 10 words. These tiny nuances [decrease] your chance of going to spam.”
Make your subject line short, succinct, and catchy without being too pushy. It should also be personalized. For example, “Former Google employee looking for an opportunity.”
Get the Salutation Right
Avoid the generic “To whom it may concern” or “Dear Sir/Madam.” Instead, personalize the greeting, making sure you spell the person’s name correctly. Shovkoplias says you want to come off as warm, but don’t get too creative. Get a feel for the company’s culture and language by reviewing its website and try to mimic the tone.
The first line of your email should grab the reader’s attention. It creates the first impression and establishes trust with the reader as you explain who you are. If you’re applying for a creative position, such as a job in advertising, you can be creative. Otherwise, remain conservative in the bounds of industry.
“We live in a depersonalized marketing world,” Shovkoplias says. “Show you’re a human and grab their attention by providing proof of your expertise, a quick fact, or an achievement figure.” For example, “I’m an experienced marketing professional who has secured placement for clients in top publications such as . . .”
Get to the Point
Be respectful of the time the reader will spend with your email. Shovkoplias recommends having a one-line introduction and about three to four sentences with a general message that conveys your value, then bow out.
“If you’re writing a huge letter that takes more than three to four minutes to read, you dramatically lower the chances that a recruiter or department manager will respond,” Shovkoplias says. “Be cognizant that we live in a world of short attention spans.”
Your message could include:
- Why you’re reaching out
- What you can bring to the company, such as your experience
- Proof of your skills
- Previous achievements, including metrics
- Knowledge of the industry
Shovkoplias warns against too many attachments, such as a portfolio or work sample. “Most of the time attaching more than a résumé is risky,” he says. “What you want to do is make it easy to get to the next step. If you’re emailing a manager, they can take your résumé and forward it to HR.”
Another benefit of keeping your email short is that you’re more likely to hear back, adds Menno Olsthoorn, CEO of Resume.io. “It gives the other person permission to send a quick reply with feedback, a next action, or to simply say the position is filled,” he says. “If you write a one-pager, the person may archive it or not reply at all.”
Close with a Question
Similar to email marketing, close your email with the next step open-ended. For example, “Would you be open to a phone call to discuss possible openings within your company?”
Shovkoplias says, “You want the person receiving it to not feel like the dialogue is closed. And don’t be presumptuous or arrogant. Ask if they have time to talk about possible job openings. It should be engagement more than a statement. A statement puts a stop or pause on the dialogue.”
Sign Off Right
Finally, sign off in a similar way to your salutation. Unless you’re in a creative industry, Shovkoplias says it’s best to use a safe and traditional sign-off, such as “Best Regards” or “Sincerely.”
“They are cliché to an extent,” Shovkoplias says. “[But] it’s best to end safe because you’ve already taken a risk—you sent the email.”