Thursday, July 30, 2009

A plea for subject lines

This post on BNET about how to annoy your colleagues with email put me in mind of some email problems that I have experienced lately. Well, not my problem really: other people's problems.
  • Sending email with no subject header or a re: subject header. It screams: I'm a virus, I'm a virus. I have set my email to kick these suckers out of the queue, straight to delete. If you send your job applications like that you have just sent them to the electrical shredder. Ditto, if you did this to follow up on a request from someone you met at a networking event, or to ask your former bosses to give you a reference. It doesn't matter if they recognize the email address. Prudence says, turf it. If you think your bosses will remember your name and email from when you worked there, that was your corporate email. They aren't going to know gobbledygook at
  • Vague subject lines are just as bad, since those have been hijacked by spammers. About our conversation last week is terrible, and I might delete it since I think that one has been used by people trying to sell me Viagra. About our conversation at CLA is a bit better, until bots start using acronyms and abbreviations, hoping for a bite. Use a specific subject line, such as a short paraphrase of the topic discussed, and then use We discussed this at CLA, in the body of the message so I remember who you are. 
  • If you are applying on a job posting with a reference number and job title, use both. Some jobs titles have multiple competitions with different numbers, so use both to help with filtering.
What if I sent the email message out with no subject line by mistake and it is due right away: do I resend? Oh, no, multiple copies of items with attachments from the same address doesn't look like spam at all. If they're going to open it, sending it once to the appropriate person (assuming you got that right) will take care of the problem.

Fill out subject lines first, job title and number, and then cut, paste and attach your messages and documents into the email. Don't leave a subject line blank, but if you got everything else right, don't punish yourself for that small mistake, but make it easier on the HR person to sort you out.

No comments: