How to Properly Reach Out to a Hiring Manager

Kelly McDonald, human resources manager for startup accelerator Cogo Labs, shares some inside tips on how to make a great first impression on a hiring manager.

Picture this: You’re browsing Twitter or reading TechCrunch when, suddenly, a company catches your eye. A few clicks later and it’s clear, this is where you are meant to work. But the next step could be make or break for your career: reaching out to the hiring manager.

You open your email and hover over the keys. Now what? Typing that initial inquiry can be intimidating, so here are some inside tips to make a great first impression from someone on the other end of the message.

Make It Personal

A majority of the time, you will be sending your message to a general mailbox and hoping it reaches the right person. One way to insure it does is to learn the hiring manager’s name. This is where LinkedIn becomes your best friend. The head of the department is usually a safe bet, so try finding someone whose title is “Chief Marketing Officer,” “Chief Operating Officer”—really, anything with “chief.” If your LinkedIn search isn’t helpful, address the email to the HR employee on staff. The act shows you took the time to do your research.

Stand Out

I receive at least three emails daily from individuals interested in Cogo Labs, and that number skyrockets into the dozens when we have an opening on our team we are actively hiring for. A few resumés in, though, and they all start blending together, so you need to find a way to stand out.

If you have a personal connection to the company, whether a current employee or reference from one of the company’s investors, mention it in the first paragraph of your email. Any hiring manager will give those applicants special attention.

But beware: You could stand out for the wrong reasons.

Do not:

  • Put your headshot on your resumé: Unless you are an actor, skip this. I am not hiring you for your looks; let your accomplishments speak for you.
  • Have an “Objective” or “Goal” section: Some people love this, others hate it. Personally, I think it’s pointless. Your goal is to get a job, and I know that because you are emailing me. Write any necessary details in a concise cover letter and save the space for your skills and accomplishments.

Get to the Point

No one has time to read a resumé that rivals War and Peace; keep it to one page. That lifeguard job you worked one summer in high school? Take it out.

Make sure your resumé is relevant to the role you are applying for by integrating keywords and action verbs. If you are applying for a manager role, make sure your leadership skills are prominent. If you are applying for a sales job, highlight your measurable accomplishments. You might need a few versions of your resumé, but the extra effort will be worth it when you are signing that offer letter.

Double—No, Triple—Check

I know you are excited to hit “send,” but before you do, reread your email and triple check that you:

  • Attached all appropriate files: The number one mistake is not attaching your resumé to the email.
  • Did not spell anything wrong: Spell check doesn’t catch everything, and there is a huge difference between being “a part of your company” and “apart of your company.”
  • Properly formatted the company’s name: With random capitalizations (take HubSpot and DraftKings) or quirkier spellings (like Bridj), you better make sure you nail the company’s name.

The Nudge

Inboxes become black holes all too easily, so knowing how to properly follow up is key. If you haven’t heard back in a week, send a simple email that says, “I know you’re busy, but I want to stay on your radar in case there’s a fit for me now or in the future.” And reply to your initial email, so all correspondence stays in one chain.

Also, wait until you have made a personal connection with any hiring managers before adding them on LinkedIn. I usually don’t accept anyone until I have had him or her in for an interview. A random request can come across as forward, so hold off until you have met.

And above all, keep it professional. I love seeing an applicant’s personality, but I have received more than one email that started with, “Hey dude!” and I couldn’t hit “delete” fast enough. You want to leave the impression you put thought into your email—not that you tapped out a hasty note with a “Sent from my iPhone” signature. Show that you took applying seriously and that you respect the hiring manager’s time, and he or she will do the same.

For more career tips and advice, explore our related articles