TAO Self-help

Title:Avoid the Resume Black Hole: How to Get Your Emailed Resume Noticed

Author:Susan P. Joyce

Date:October 2017


We often email resumes in response to a job posting or send our resume to a networking contact, recruiter, or hiring manager. That can be very effective, or it can be a waste of time and energy, depending on how well it is done and how good a fit the resume is for the opportunity.

Often people seem to assume that the person receiving the email has only one job posting open or will intuitively understand which job is being applied for. I've often seen email messages with subjects like: "Resume attached" "Your job posting" "Applying for your job" "Assistant job" and even plain old "Attached."

Too often those subject links can make the message look like spam or, worse, a malware-laden message, and may be deleted. Certainly they are often ignored because they put the burden on the recipient for figuring out why the message was sent and what it is about.

Think about your own email usage. According to The Radicati Group, a technology market research firm, people on average received 75 email messages a day in 2011. Anyone who posts a job online could easily receive100 additional messages a day from people responding to the posting — that's 175 messages. That's a lot of email to dig through!

If someone spent only 1 minute on each of those 175 messages, that's nearly 3 hours spent on only scanning email. Not going to happen, is it? So, if they aren't deleted, those messages sit in that inbox or other email folder waiting...

Email Is Both the Conduit and the Barrier

Unless someone applies for a job on a job board, most resumes are sent via email, and they end up sitting in someone's INBOX or in an email folder somewhere on their computer. Sometimes they are read immediately. Often, they sit in that inbox or folder, possibly for days or weeks.

How does your message with your resume get found and read eventually? The email software's search function is frequently the tool used to sift through messages to find the appropriate applicants and resumes.

Few of us think about the email search function when we send our resumes (or other email) messages.

  • To be effective, our messages must be read.
  • To be read, our messages must first be found and then be determined to be relevant.
  • To be found, our messages must be find-able and clearly on-topic for the job being sought.
For Resume Impact, Email Must Be Effective

For the resume to be found, the subject of the email must be effective. It must clearly communicate to the recipient the reason that the message should be opened. So, the subject line is critical to the effectiveness of the message. "Resume attached" and "Your job opening" don't make the cut.

The person scanning the inbox or using the email search function is looking for specific words in the subject of a message. Or, the email search function may also be used to find specific words in the content of the message. So, keep that in mind when you write your email message.

Since the email search function usually allows searching through only message subjects or through the text in the body of the message, cover both of those bases with your email message.

Keywords must be included in the subject of the message.

Often, searches focus on the subject lines of the messages because that is usually the quickest search to perform.

To be sure that your message appears in a search through message subjects, think about the keywords that would be relevant for an employer searching through all those email messages to find the ones from people applying for a specific job opening?

  • The job title used by the employer in the posting.

    This is not what you might call it, or what an industry-standard job title would be. The name to use in your email is the name this employer has labeled this job. Maybe the rest of the world calls the job "administrative assistant" — but this employer calls it "office admin support" or "admin assist."

  • The job requisition number or other employer identifier assigned to the job posting.

    Often, job postings have some sort of identifier to separate them from other postings the same employer has open, even for small employers. It might be the job title and location, but often it is a code that is included in the job description.

  • The location of the job (city and state).

    Particularly if there is no job requisition number, include the city and state, unless the employer has only a single location.

  • The word "resume."

    Using the word "resume" highlights that the message is from someone who is interested in applying for a position. Using the word "resume" also includes a very valuable keyword in the subject line. This ensures that the message appears in search results even on a general search for resumes.

For example, Subj: Resume for Admin Assistant in Dispatch position, # 1570, in San Diego, CA

In this case, the job title of the job posting is "Admin Assistant in Dispatch." So, those words are exactly the words used in the email subject.

Include those same keywords in the body of the message, too.

The same important keywords, described above, that are included in the title of the message need to also be included in the body of the message as well. This ensures that they are found if someone is searching through the email message as a whole, not just the subject.

In addition, since the email message is a form of cover letter for your resume, including the details of the job being applied for is helpful for the reader and, surprisingly, frequently omitted. Including this information comes under the heading of "being easy to hire" in addition to leveraging the email search function.

Since you have more space in the body of the message, you have room to include more of your resume's keywords, and, in fact, you can copy and paste your entire resume — or the most relevant portions of it — into the message below the "cover letter" introductory text at the top of your message.

Bottom Line: Go with the Probabilities

I think it's more productive long-term to write your message with the email search function in mind. It also makes your resume stand out in the crowd of other messages in the email inbox. And, following these recommendations will make it clear to the recipient why the message was sent. Particularly today, a clear and coherent subject and email message stand out from the crowd of relatively-clueless appearing responses to job postings.


For More on Effective Job Search:

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. Susan is a two-time layoff "graduate" who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. In 2011, NETability purchased WorkCoachCafe.com, and Susan has been editor and publisher of WorkCoach since then. Susan also edits and publishes Job-Hunt.org, is a Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and a columnist on HuffingtonPost. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Google+.

Featured Employers all