Email: It’s the thing we love to hate… or at least complain about. But it’s also the key to new opportunities. “Emails matter because they’re how doors open and close all day long,” says Danny Rubin, author of Wait, How Do I Write This Email? Whether you’re looking for a new job or reconnecting with an old boss, networking experts share exactly what to write (and not to write) to get the response you’re hoping for.
Personalize Your Message.
Reference a commonality in your opening line: how you met, a mutual interest, or a shared connection. Same goes for your subject line, says Blair Decembrele, LinkedIn career expert. Avoid vague language such as “Seeking advice” or “Looking to connect.”
Get to the Point.
The shorter the message, the higher the response rate, says Decembrele. Be clear and conversational and say exactly why you’re writing. Tease attached information (like a cover letter) if you have more to say.
Ask a Question They Want to Answer.
Grab someone’s attention by asking a question they haven’t heard a million times. If you’re interviewing for a job at the person’s company, write, “I know you work at x company; what was the hardest interview question they asked you?”
Remember You’re Talking to a Person.
Don’t make immediate demands on someone’s time, connections, or brainpower, says J. Kelly Hoey, author of Build Your Dream Network. Instead of suggesting coffee right away, express your appreciation for the other person’s time and let them take the lead for next steps.
Be Honest With an Old Acquaintance.
Hoey suggests acknowledging that it’s been some time since you’ve spoken, saying that you’ve been keeping up with her career and providing a quick update on what’s happening in your life, both at home and at work. Write, “Because you helped me so much with my career, I just wanted you to know that this happened.”
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Make It Mobile Friendly.
“Consider the time of day and the device on which someone is reading your email,” says Hoey. A nightly train commuter (or anyone, really) may zone out on a multiparagraph email. Bullet points and short sentences work best.
Stay Top of Mind.
If you met someone at an event, send a connection request or email within 24 hours, while your meeting is still fresh in the person’s mind. You don’t have to make a specific ask. Simply writing ”It was nice to meet you” is valuable and will help you capitalize on a future networking opportunity, says Hoey.
Sign Off Smartly.
After studying more than 350,000 email threads, Brendan Greenley, a data scientist at the email productivity company Boomerang, found that showing appreciation in an email closing inspired more people to reply. “Thanks in advance,” “Thanks,” and “Thank you” all delivered higher response rates than the ubiquitous “Best” or “Regards.”
Yes, we live in an always-on world, but you have to let business take its natural course. In most cases, give the person 48 hours before sending a follow-up. Still no answer? Try reaching out by phone just in case the messages ended up in their spam folder, says Rubin. If they don’t answer after that, it’s time to move on. There are plenty of other connections in the sea.
This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com