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Job Applicants’ Emails That Win With Bebe

Last week I taught a business writing class at a sophisticated communications company in San Francisco. One of the attendees was a recruiter, Bebe, whose responsibility is to fill jobs in San Francisco and Seattle.

When Bebe read my revision of an ineffective email, she cried out, "THIS is what I need from applicants! I wish they would give me THIS!"

What Bebe wants from job candidates who write to her is this:

  • A subject line or a short opening sentence that names the job the applicant is applying for.
  • Short chunks of text. No paragraphs longer than four lines.
  • Short sentences, each one 25 words or less.
  • Bullet points that concisely list experience and accomplishments that are relevant to the job.
  • Headings, where appropriate, to make something stand out.
  • Nothing irrelevant–only information that Bebe needs to determine whether she should forward the resume to a hiring manager.
  • Nothing unprofessional such as a bold red font or wallpaper backgrounds.
  • No more than one follow-up message. After that, Bebe feels pestered, which is not a way to win her respect or her goodwill.  

My best advice for people who are writing job-search messages is this: Remember that you are writing to get the interview–not the job. You do not have to tell everything. (Doing so will lead to a bloated message.) You only have to tell enough to communicate that you are worth interviewing.

Do you have tips for job-search emails and letters? Please share them with the applicants who read this blog.

Syntax Training

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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

4 comments on “Job Applicants’ Emails That Win With Bebe”

  • Thanks for the excellent tips. I would add this: Read the job posting carefully. If you do NOT have the basic requirements, don’t send a resume, especially if the job requires specific skills that you don’t have.

  • D. Siegel, I like your advice. Too often applicants think that getting their resume in front of a recruiter is the goal. But when applicants are obviously not qualified for a particular job, submitting a resume sends the message that they can’t read, have an inflated view of their abilities, or are acting in desperation.

    Thanks for commenting.


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