Mastering the Intro Email to a Prospective Employer

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It’s spring semester, senior year. Or maybe you’re a seasoned professional who’s looking for a change. Either way, the pressure is on: it’s time for you to reach out to potential employers.

While there are plenty of tips out there on when to reach out and how often, I want to focus today on the very first email you send to a prospective employer.

As CEO of Brolik, a digital marketing agency, I will flag a candidate and grant an interview often based solely on the first email I receive from them (yes, I still keep an eye on every resume that comes in, even though it’s not my job to manage our hiring process).

The first email could be your only chance to make an impression on a potential employer, and it can showcase your strong research, communication, and writing skills all in one shot — if you do it right.

That first email can either open up doors, or, conversely get you archived in someone’s inbox, never to be looked at again.

So, before you send that intro email to a potential employer, let me share some advice:

Do Your Homework

Find out how the company was founded, the problem it is trying to solve, what the company is passionate about, and who the company’s clients are. Be sure to dig deep and really find some fun facts. Don’t force anything, but your email should somehow show in a clever and casual way that you know the company. The person reading it should feel like they aren’t just 1 of 100 you are sending a resume to.

Focus on the Company

This is just as important in sales outreach as it is in applying for a job. Focus on the potential employer. Tell them how you can help and where you think your talents will fit. How can you add to what the company is already doing? Remember: you don’t just want to showoff your talents. You want to make it clear how your skills can be leveraged for the good of the company.

Let the Employer Know That You Want to Be Where They Are

If you want to live in the city the company is headquartered in, say so. If you want to be in Philadelphia, or Chicago, or Austin, tell the employer. Organizations want to see that you are passionate about their city and won’t get homesick or have second thoughts if relocation is necessary. If it’s your first time in the city, keep that to yourself.

Show Respect

It’s popular to add an edgy flair to your intro, but be careful. Saying things like “I make moves,” or “Jack of all trades,” or “Renaissance man/woman,” or “creative ninja,” might sound good to you, but it likely won’t get the results you’re looking for.

Be Unique — But Not Too Unique

PlaneYou want to stand out, but you don’t want to stick out like a sore thumb. The company needs to believe that you’ll fit in well with its culture. Be clever, but not too clever. Be funny if that’s you. Be concise no matter who you are.

Write Well and Proofread

Think back to grade-school grammar. Cut out unnecessary words and remember to check your spelling and punctuation. Mix long and short sentences. Your email should be easy to read, and achieving that effect comes with practice.

Real Emails From Candidates (and What You Can Learn From Them):

• “I am writing to you to apply to Brolik’s digital marketing internship, as I believe my past digital marketing experience, strong work ethic, and desire to learn would allow me to make an immediate contribution in the position.”

Tip: A formal start is okay. We hired this candidate.

• “I’ve never been good at selling myself.”

Tip: Never start by putting yourself down, even if it’s a lead in to something else.

• “I am very enthusiastic and excited about the possibility of a career with your company. [No specific reasons listed]”

Tip: Don’t say something that could apply to any company, even if it’s positive. Say some specific and unique to that company.

• “After reviewing your company, I wanted to inquire about any full time positions that relate to advertising, specifically in account management or strategy.”

Tip: It’s easy to find this information on our website. Don’t ask for it in your email.

• “I am looking for hands-on experience in marketing that I will be able to use going forward in my career.”

Tip: I’m sorry, but it’s not about you. We will care about you once you’re hired, but until then, we’re not an experience charity.

• “A career opportunity with Brolik would be a 24/7 commitment to building, enhancing, and managing brands.”

Tip: Sure, we’re all about brand — but that wasn’t in the job description. Be specific about your strengths and make sure they relate to the desired skills spelled out in the job description.

TypewriterTry This Exercise When Writing Your Next Intro Email

The following template can help you create a stand-out intro email that hits all the right notes:


[This is how I found you and what attracted me to you.]

[This is why I appreciate what you are doing and where you’ve been, giving a casual detail or two.]

[This is how I can contribute, based on the position and my knowledge of your company.]

[A note about any relevant experience or training.]

[A quick thank you and send off.]

In the end, it’s all about being unique and professional. Don’t get lost in a sea of emails. Make an impression by saying something that requires time and thought. I can’t speak for other executives or HR professionals, but sincerity and diligence go a long way with me.

Read more in Career Advice

Jason is cofounder and CEO of Brolik, an award-winning digital agency in Philadelphia specializing in Web design, digital marketing strategy, branding, and video. Jason leads Brolik's business development and marketing efforts. Follow Jason on Twitter (@jaybrew) or read more of his writing (