Contacting potential employers and referral sources is instrumental. Knowing what to do and doing it well enhances your chances to get the desired results from your search.
Before you initiate correspondence of any kind, have a goal in mind. It can be an introduction, information, an interview but each is different and requires different content.
Just as important is knowing with whom you’re corresponding. With a little research on LNKD, or an organization website or a college alumni database, you can find out the basics before you reach out.
The Introductory Email
An introductory email tells someone you are a job seeker who wants to learn more.
“Hello. I am interested in what you do. This is why I am interested. Can you help me learn more? Thank you.” is a good skeleton of an intro.
Although this may not be formal, it still needs to be polite and use proper English. No slang and no abbreviations.
Get their attention. Try to get a commitment. Always say “thank you”.
Follow up promptly. Make sure you keep the recipients posted on your progress.
A cover letter is an introduction and a teaser. It is not a restatement of your resume.
The key components of any cover letter are “Who am I? Why am I interested in your company? What skills and attributes can I contribute? I’d love to explore more. Thank you.”
A cover letter should NOT chronicle your relevant experience. It should provide enough information to grab their attention.
The goal with a cover letter is to get you an interview – and that is where you can explain details and specifics that make you a qualified candidate.
An ideal length for a cover letter is 272 words (That is the length of the Gettysburg Address). Lincoln made history, all you’re doing is trying to get an interview.
"OK, I’m a total convert to the Gettysburg Address word limit. I agree that it looks better and the details didn't really add anything. With your edits, I cut it down from 432 to 270 and it reads really well. And more importantly, I got a call back from my application this morning. I can’t say for sure it was the edits but it feels good. Thanks so much."
Using the Appropriate Medium
Email v. Phone v. Text
Sometimes it is hard to know what form of correspondence to use.
Think about which medium plays to your strengths.
Think about where you are most reachable. Whatever medium you choose, monitor it for responses. If you use your phone, make sure the message function has capacity.
Oftentimes, the company culture will help determine which is most appropriate, so do your homework.
Don’t be afraid to use more than one. Just like you, the person you are contacting may use multiple sources for contact.
There are positives and pitfalls to customizing your correspondence.
You shouldn’t have a standard introduction note, cover letter or follow-up email. Anything that requires personal and individualized notes must be unique. Resumes and certain cover letters are more of a gray area.
Using a template that includes the basic information about you and your plans is fine but as each opportunity is unique, so should most correspondence.
An introductory note should be tailored to the person and position you’re seeking.
A cover letter should include some detail about the specific position and the company to which you are applying, but this information could probably fit into a broader template.
If you choose to use a template, be absolutely sure you check your work. Using the wrong name, wrong company, or wrong job is a deal breaker.
A customized resume can help you deliver a targeted message for a specific opportunity, but this can also be a time consuming and unnecessary process.
Use your head: if you’ve happened upon a huge opportunity, taking time to customize your correspondence to drive home your message could be well worth the effort. But if time is of the essence, sending in your “one size fits most” resume might be better.
The Importance of Follow-Up
The first follow-up should be a thank you with some simple take-aways.
When you follow up, add new insights to reflect your interest. Reference things you learned, things you discussed, or things that stood out. This will lay the foundation for continued correspondence.
Keep it brief. No one ever wants to read a lengthy email.
It is important to follow-up and express your interest, but beware of badgering.
Keeping Yourself on Track
During a job search, you’ll likely be simultaneously communicating with many parties so it’s crucial to keep track of all your correspondence.
Adopt a system to manage your contacts and calendar and be rigorous about using it and updating it.
Any system is better than no system. It will help you avoid stress, slip-ups and confusion so you can focus on what’s actually important.