How to ensure your CV gets read

So you have attached a fantastic CV to your email – but why should your dream employer open it? It’s simple: your email can make all the difference

Although many candidates spend hours crafting their CV, attention is rarely paid to the email itself, damaging the prospect of an interview. When applications were made mainly by post, most recruiters would lift the covering letter to size up the first page of the CV. But when the work of hand-writing letters and photocopying CVs is no longer necessary, weaker candidates see no harm in firing off speculative emails. As such, recruiters are often overwhelmed by the volume of responses flooding their inboxes. Most, therefore, expect the majority of applications to be from unsuitable candidates, creating a strong disincentive to open attachments. This may be unethical but is common practice – and a compelling reason to write irresistible emails.

Email etiquette

Informality is generally more acceptable in emails than in traditional letters – but it’s best to err on the side of caution. Starting the email with ‘Hi Lucy’ or ‘Hello Simon’ may be over-familiar. Better to stick with ‘Dear John’.

In the subject field of your email, state clearly the job for which you are applying, including a reference number if there is one. Those with little time to spare – especially recruitment consultants – often delete emails from unknown addresses if the subject is blank or vague. This isn’t laziness but a sensible precaution against potential viruses.

The virtue of email is that you can compose and save core information about your skills and attributes and tailor this for each message. Yet many candidates fail to capitalise on this opportunity and then wonder why there was no reply asking them for an interview. Highlight all relevant and transferable skills in a few succinct sentences. Keep your mission in mind: to convince the recipient that double-clicking on your attachment will be a simple but highly profitable undertaking.

No cheese please

Don’t imagine that comedy will make your application stand out. Exclamation marks, self-deprecating comments, and attempts at humour are intensely irritating, and give the impression of flippancy. Only a tiny percentage of these applications are likely to achieve success – avoid at all costs.

Finish positively: say you would welcome the opportunity to answer any questions. Reading ‘I look forward to hearing from you soon’ (or similar) annoys many recruiters. The assumption implies an obligation on the part of the recipient, even if dictated by courtesy. A simple ‘Regards’, ‘Yours sincerely’ or ‘Yours faithfully’ suffices.

Finally, save your email somewhere safe. If you are applying for a number of jobs, you will need to refer to what you wrote in your email when that welcome call for interview comes through.  

"Keep your mission in mind: to convince the recipient that double-clicking on your attachment will be a simple but highly profitable undertaking"