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How to Reply to a Job Ad by Email

Updated on February 13, 2017
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I'm a business communications coach who teaches writing, speaking, and leadership skills to adults in the midst of a career change.

Replying to a Job Ad Is Your First Chance to Make a Good Impression

One of the best ways to send a clear email message in response to a job ad is to jot down the main points you want to make before you even begin typing.
One of the best ways to send a clear email message in response to a job ad is to jot down the main points you want to make before you even begin typing.

When you're looking for a job, making a positive first impression with a prospective employer starts the moment you reply to a career posting, by phone, mail, or email. When replying to a job advertisement by email, follow these simple tips to make a good impression and improve your chances of getting called in for an interview.

Email is the fastest way to send a resume in response to a job posting. And because of that, employers can receive hundreds of applications within hours of advertising a job opening in their company.

As a job seeker, you need to make sure that your email is flagged to be opened right away. The good news is that a little courtesy and common sense is all it takes to send your message to the top of your prospective employer's 'to be opened' pile.

Stand Out From the Crowd

If you reply to a job posting by email, you must make your job application stand out. Email is the fastest way to send a résumé in response to a job posting. And because of that, employers can receive hundreds of applications within hours of advertising a job opening at their company.

As a job seeker, you need to make sure that your email is flagged to be opened right away. The good news is that a little courtesy and common sense is all it takes to send your message to the top of your prospective employer's 'to be opened' pile.

In addition to an impeccably designed résumé and a well-written cover letter with no spelling errors, the way you format your email will influence your prospective employer's decision to call you in for an interview.

Here are some tips for making a good impression the moment you hit 'send.'

Don't Accidentally Send an Unfinished Email

Avoid accidentally pressing send too soon! Before you start writing an email in response to a job opportunity, make sure you're in drafting mode. One of the worst things you can do when replying to a job is to send it to the wrong person or send it off before you've finished composing your message. To avoid this embarrassing email mistake, don’t put the recipient's address in until you're absolutely sure the email is in tip-top shape. Always compose a draft email first if you really want to send an eye-catching, error-free message to a future employer.

Use the Right Email Account

Choose your email account wisely. If you send your résumé using an email address that you also use to sign into social media accounts, you risk your prospective employer finding out information about you that you might have wanted to keep private.

Many social media sites let people search for “friends” by scanning their email contacts and then pulling up the profiles attached to that email. Your Facebook profile, your tweets on Twitter, your Instagram page and many other social media accounts can all be located by your email address, even if you use an alias on those accounts.

Create a job hunting email that you use exclusively for employment related purposes. That way you'll be creating a clear boundary between your personal online accounts and your professional ones.

Making a good impression at a job interview starts the moment you send an email to an employer.
Making a good impression at a job interview starts the moment you send an email to an employer.

Make Your Name Clear

Set your email display name to show your full name. What name shows up next to your email address in your recipient’s Inbox?

Is it your full name, an abbreviation, a nickname or an alias made up of letters and numbers? Perhaps your name doesn’t show up at all and the sender name defaults to display only your email address. If you appear as goofypants@yadoo.com, or some other obscure name, you risk having your email deleted.

Check your settings to make sure that the name beside your email is clear and complete. Ideally, your email display name should match the name at the top of your résumé .

The added benefit of displaying a clear sender name is that your contact information will be properly filed by the recipient’s automatic contacts sorter.

Don't Dance Around the Subject

Keep your subject line clear and to the point. Your email subject line should be clear, authoritative, and authentic. The recipient should be able to tell right away what your message is about.

  • If the job posting asks you to quote a specific job number, put that in your subject line followed by your full name.
  • Keep your subject line short so that it shows up in full in the employer’s preview pane.
  • Avoid using trite phrases that undermine your message such as “Just a note” or "Greetings!”
  • Include keywords in your subject line that match the content of your message; this will make it easier for the employer to sort your message and find it again later using the search feature.

Clearly label your attachments. How you label your attachments is another piece of information that helps employers quickly scan your message and decide if it should be opened. Don't waste your future employers' time by making them rename your attachments so that they can find them on their hard drives later.

Your attachments should have logical file names that match your résumé with the job you are applying for. If you label your attachment 'Résumé' or 'Résumé Final' or worse, 'Résumé to ABC company' and you're sending it to XYZ Company, you almost guarantee that your application will be ignored. If you don't have the time to properly label your attachments, what do you have time for?

Write a succinct, eye-catching introduction in the body of your email. Many people use the preview pane in their email programs to identify the messages that need to be opened right away.

Just like your subject line that identifies the intent of your email, the first few lines of your email should be catchy and succinct. If you have written a clear subject line that shows you're interested in the job, why repeat such a sentiment in the first few lines of your email?

By writing an attractive and compelling introduction to your email, you'll stand out from all the other applicants who use worn out sentences such as ‘Please find attached my résumé and cover letter’ or ‘Please consider my résumé ... ." The preview pane is valuable email real estate. Maximize the power of every single word in your introduction.

After analyzing 250,000 emails, an email management company called Boomerang discovered that making a mistake in the email subject line can result in a 5 percent decline in the chance a message would be opened.

Source: The Worst Email Mistake You Can Make, The Science of Us

Pay attention to the little details that will help your job application stand out.

  • Create/use a standard signature that includes your name, phone number, and hyperlink to your professional website or LinkedIn profile.
  • Avoid tagging your email as ‘High Importance.’ If you have identified the intent of your email clearly in the subject line, flagging your application as "High Importance" is unnecessary and somewhat obnoxious. Avoid using gimmicks to get your email opened. Clarity and professionalism is all that is truly needed for your application to catch your future employer's eye.
  • Keep your anti-virus software up to date. Nothing will irritate your prospective employer more than getting a bug from your email.
  • Start a new email for each new employment application. Do not simply forward an email that you sent to someone else.
  • Don't send your application to multiple employers by using the Bcc or blind carbon copy feature (otherwise known as sending it to an "undisclosed recipients' list). It could be flagged as SPAM by the recipient's email filters.
  • Do not use ALL CAPS in your email. It is the equivalent of shouting online and it is hard to read. It also suggests that you are a lazy typist.
  • Do not use emoticons or smiley faces.
  • Don’t use fancy fonts in your email. Stick to standard fonts (such as Ariel and Times New Roman) so that your text displays properly in the recipients mailbox. Some fancy fonts do not translate well across email programs.
  • Check your file size before you send it. Is it as compact as it can be so that it will fit in the recipients' Inbox? You don’t want your file eating up your recipient’s mailbox space. Eliminate any unnecessary images, graphics, or other debris that make your file size unwieldy.
  • Emojis and emoticons have no place in an email message to a future employer. Save the cute stuff for emails to your friends and family.

Never write anything in an email that you wouldn't want shared with hundreds of other people. There's no guarantee that once you press send, your email won't end up in the wrong hands.
Never write anything in an email that you wouldn't want shared with hundreds of other people. There's no guarantee that once you press send, your email won't end up in the wrong hands.

Avoid Embarrassing Technical Glitches

Before you press "send," check your email program's Inbox capacity. Make sure that the email account that your prospective employer will be responding to will actually be able to receive his or her email. Delete any old or unwanted messages so that your InBox has plenty of room in it. One of the worst things that can happen when you use email to respond to a job posting is that your potential employer gets a message saying your mail box is full and his or her message is undeliverable. If recruiters have to follow up with another message or wait until your mailbox in empty, they might just move on to the next candidate and put your application in the circular file (i.e.; the shredder).

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In summary, it’s all about being considerate of your prospective employer's time. Imagine yourself in your future employer’s shoes, faced with hundreds of applications. Recruiting, interviewing and hiring new employees is a time-consuming task.

By being thoughtful of your prospective employers’ time constraints and organizing your message clearly from the top down, you'll significantly increase the chances that your job application will be opened and acted upon in a timely manner.

Video Tips on Business Email Etiquette

© 2012 Sally Hayes

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