While you may have heard that email is dead, it is, in fact, probably the most important tool you will use during your job hunt. You'll likely email your application and cover letter, and use it to reach out to networking contacts, follow up after informational meetings, and thank interviewers with a perfectly worded note.
Since most people are accustomed to casually communicating via Twitter and text, it's easy to underestimate the importance of email interactions. Keep these pointers in mind to make sure email helps you win a job.
[See our Best Jobs of 2012.]
1. Use an appropriate email. Maybe you have been emailing using a handle such as firstname.lastname@example.org for so long that you haven't thought about how other people react to your moniker. If you keep an eye on recruiter forums, you will see that they regularly share (and mock) the surprising candidate email names they see when hiring. (You don't want to be remembered for being email@example.com.) Choose firstname.lastname@example.org or (even better), set up an email from your own domain, such as YOU@yourname.com.
2. Take advantage of job alerts. If you're incorporating job sites or job boards, you can sign-up for email job alerts that allow you to save a search and have the site send you notices of jobs appropriate for you. (Check your favorite job boards to take advantage of this option.) Before you sign-up, be sure to evaluate the job sites. Consider reviewing Job-Hunt.org's list of criteria to evaluate job boards to be sure you protect your privacy.
3. Reach out with a spectacular cover letter. When you apply for a job via email, use your cover letter for the email's body and attach your resume. Remember, the reader's first impression will be based on your email, so take your time to make your correspondence appropriate, targeted, effective, and concise. Think of keeping the text to the length of what likely fits on one screen without scrolling. Keep your most important message (why you're a good fit) at the top of the message to wow your reader.
4. Follow up so they don't forget you. In a blog post on keppiecareers.com, I discuss how it's so easy to use email to follow up with people you meet. But are you writing notes that inspire readers to advocate for you?
What impresses people most? Reaching out to networking contacts with information you think will help them do their jobs. Find articles you know will interest them and forward the links, along with a brief note. Where should you look? Do a Google search to find relevant information and use Alltop.com to find and follow blogs about topics affecting your target audience.
Don't forget to consider sharing resources relevant to your contacts' personal interests. Be a good listener when you meet people and make a point to learn about their hobbies and passionate interests. Maybe they enjoy gardening? Baseball? Home decorating? Find interesting information to share online. Email a link to your networking contacts, and they'll be pleasantly surprised you remembered what they told you—even if it has nothing to do with work.
5. Ask friends to help. It's easy to use social networks, such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook to keep in touch with friends, but it may not be safe to assume a message passed via those tools will be their top priority—or that it will necessarily even make it to the person. How many times have you missed a Facebook message, or had a private message on Twitter go awry? When you want to reach someone, your best first bet is via email. If you don't hear back, try reaching out via social media or phone.
6. Write a thank you note. One of the most important and often overlooked aspects of the job search is the thank you note. While a "snail mail" note, printed and sent via a stamp is a nice touch, most people expect to hear from you right away, and email is the best way to immediately reach out after an interview. Your targeted employer wants to hear from you; do not underestimate the importance of following up.
7. Always edit all of your notes. How easy is it to write a quick note and hit the "send" button? Do not fall victim to a quick email with errors; it will hurt more than help. Review your email messages carefully, and you'll be much more likely to impress the reader—and possibly land an opportunity.
Miriam Salpeter is a job search and social media consultant, career coach, author, speaker, resume writer, and owner of Keppie Careers. She is author of Social Networking for Career Success. Miriam teaches job seekers and entrepreneurs how to incorporate social media tools along with traditional strategies to empower their success. Connect with her via Twitter @Keppie_Careers.