[Case Studies] How to Write Winning Emails for Job Recommendations

It’s the graduating season for the college (university) seniors and most of them have undertaken one “major project”– finding jobs. These days, you either go through traditional job application process or tap into your networks for support. If you are actively looking for a job and someone does the favor of linking you up with his associate, how do you write an effective email to market yourself so the recommendation lands you an interview and eventually… a job?

Recently, I’ve made personal recommendations for two friends for career opportunities at a multinational and start-up. With their permission, these are the key highlights for what made their emails stand out. I have also blanked out important details, for confidentiality sake.

Y’s Application for a Career at LinkedIn

1. Be Brief

I like Y’s email because it is really succinct and to-the-point. The structure of her email was straightforward and yet accentuated her key achievements without being arrogant. Though I thought she can be more personal by addressing my friend at LinkedIn with her first name since that was how I sent out the connection mail. 🙂

1) Greetings

2) Self-introduction

3) Career Highlight & Achievement 1

4) Career Highlight & Achievement 2 related to Prospective Firm

5) Call for Action

What most young professionals normally miss out is to share your relationship with the prospective firm you are applying to. Have you done a research project about the firm? Have you met someone who has worked there and been impressed by what they have shared? Have you done an internship and achieved significantly in a similar function at a different firm or industry?

Tell them what you admire about their firm and why you yearn to be a part of their firm. Be genuinely interested from the onset for you if you try to fake it, it’ll come through easily during the interview.

2. Sell Yourself, Online

If by now, you don’t have a LinkedIn account, go register for an account. Next, ensure your profile is compelling (Careerealism LinkedIn Cheat Sheet). For the uninitiated, LinkedIn is the world’s leading professional networking site. It has become a standard practice for HR practitioners, recruiters and hiring managers to do a preliminary screening of applicant’s profiles via LinkedIn.

Granted that Y was applying for a position within LinkedIn, she had better have her LinkedIn profile done up well. It needs to market her in a congruent manner as with her solid resume.

The key is here to provide multiple touch points, aside from the traditional resume, so your recruiters get a fuller and more persuasive idea of who you are as an applicant and the likelihood of a fit.

Even better, get recommendations from those who have worked with you. Nothing can be more persuasive than 3rd party testimonials espousing your strengths and achievements.

Result: My friend, a regional account director, was impressed and has forwarded Y’s resume to the recruiters at LinkedIn.

Jurane’s Application for a Sales & Biz Dev Career at a Start-up (Part 1)

 3. Show How You’re a Strong Fit

Compared to Y’s email, Jurane’s email was definitely longer. Given she was applying for a career at a start-up and start-ups tend to be more laissez-flaire and value individuality and independence, I thought her “pitch” might just make the cut.

Jurane was unabashed and creative in not just listing her top 3 achievements but she showed how she exemplified 3 key qualities that were essential for success in a sales and business development position – persistence, competitiveness and accountability. It brought out how she was a strong fit with what the role was looking out for in a candidate.

More importantly, she shares experiences and achievements that brought those qualities into full play. I thought her self-deprecating sharing about how she was bent on winning even for ‘things that don’t need to be taken too seriously’, was a wise move that lent credibility.

Jurane’s Application for a Sales & Biz Dev Career at a Start-up (Part 2)

 4. Inject Your Unique Personality

By now, you will probably have a pretty visual and vivid idea of how Jurane may be like in person – a go-getter, feisty, daring, independent and self-motivated. It adds shades of her personality to her application. More importantly, I feel it builds a strong positive expectation of her character prior to the interview and sets an amazing precedence even prior to the interview.

There are a couple of downsides to such an approach. Firstly, you had better be equally, if not more persuasive, in person during the actual interview vis-à-vis how you’ve described yourself in the email. Otherwise, it will be a case of over-promising and under-delivering. Secondly, you may want to use LinkedIn to find out or ask the person recommending you about the personality of the boss or your hiring manager as well as the firm culture. Such an approach may not work if the recipient is no-nonsense and a stickler for concision.

Result: Jurane’s email was well received and it did build a positive impression and expectation upon receipt. I trust she will be called up for an interview soon!

These are two emails that have been worded and structured in very different manners and I believe they can give you good ideas on how to market yourself effectively when you are being recommended via email. Try them out and stand out in a sea of commonness!

Question: What impresses you the most about the above two emails? What did you like and what will you be implementing in your future recommendation emails? Conversely, what do you think may not work and why?