First Impressions

Tip #1: Use a computer.

How that first email can make or break your job chances

Over and over again, startup jobseekers alike find themselves in the same quandary. Pained over every word as they draft an email to the hiring manager of their desired company, the startup hopeful is often lost in a sea of self-doubt and typo paranoia. Here are some tips to keep you afloat.

Subject To Change

Universal fact: hiring managers are busy, and their inboxes are busier. A subject line like “Design Application” or “Job” is destined to be lost in the clutter. Worse, it’s a wasted opportunity – use the subject line to tell your story in a condensed, evocative way that gives the recipient no choice but to open. Something like “Fortune 500 marketer turned startup SEO whiz for your open role” showcases your background, career path, and interest in one line. Nailing down your subject line is essential, so take a page from Upworthy’s book, whose writers are reputed to write 25 headlines per article – that number may be a bit extreme, but you’d be bound to find gold.

Get To The Point

We know there are a million reasons a startup should hire you, but save most of them for the interview. The point of the cold email is to get the interview, and if a hiring manager sees an email from a stranger that resembles a George RR Martin novel, they’re likely to shift their focus elsewhere. Introduce yourself, express your interest, and finish with a clear call to action, offering a specific time and way to meet requiring minimal effort on behalf of the employer. The email copy shouldn’t take more than a minute to read – the juicy details of your work history and such belong in your attached CV.

Show What You Know

Another universal fact: everyone enjoys a good ego stroke. Include a quick anecdote that shows you’ve used the company’s product or reference something specific from their hiring blog. It’s important your email asserts that you want this job, not just any job – taking the time to do a little extra research before shooting off the email could be the game changer. And tailor your CV to directly address the skills and experiences the role calls for.

Be Bold (If You Can) 

If you really want the job, and you can afford to take a risk, offer to do some amount of work free of charge. This could be as simple as drafting a blog post for the company’s website or offering up an idea for their product, or as intensive as offering to work for a month free of charge.

Make A Connection

Who you know goes a mile – scour LinkedIn or the company’s team page to see if someone works at the company that can pass your application along directly. If not, your email to the hiring manager need not sound too official. Startup bosses want to hire people whose company they’ll enjoy, so keep the language casual, and call the boss by his or her first name unless your fervent research reveals you shouldn’t.

Now go forth (and revise that subject line).