Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Top 5 Tips for getting employer responses

Many of you have told me that you’re struggling to get responses once an initial email has been sent out. So I’ve created a list of Top 5 Tips to getting employer responses.

1) Send an email to a personal email address
Sometimes larger companies (and small) state a personal address that you can email your application to. However, most the time it won’t be a personal address e.g. HR@companyname.co.uk, so the chances of your application being read and read quickly are small.
A few ways you can get around this are:
  • Finding out a personal name through the company website. For example, if you’re on a magazine company website, they probably have editors listed and there full names.
  • Once you have a name e.g. ‘Steff Lever’, have a look on the ‘contact us’ page, can you see a pattern in the email addresses they are displaying? Most companies have the same email address endings. For example, @companyname.co.uk, and quite often it’s the employee’s first name (dot) surname @companyname.co.uk. So look out for patterns.
  • Use Google to your advantage because there are many ‘secondary’ sites that will list work placement adverts and give you a person to email – so it’s worth doing some research with search engines. You can even try multiple search engines because they do feed back different results.
  • Check out the intern opportunities page on my blog because I’ve listed an Oxford Brookes link which details about 10 pages of adverts. I know that many of these are now old adverts BUT it also lists personal email addresses to people who work at the company (such as Orion and Plexus). Email the addresses and ask for work experience!

The above won’t be applicable to all companies but it is worth trying to email a personal address and then ask to be forwarded (if they don’t deal with work placements). 

2) Try emailing smaller companies
I’m not telling you to not email companies with a generic address (HR@companyname.co.uk). In fact, smaller companies are quite good at checking work experience applications. Usually this is because they have one allocated user of the address (a publishing assistant), and because they receive less of a demand than the larger and well-known companies they are more likely to respond and be able to offer you a placement.
So try not to be picky with the various companies as they will all have many applications to choose from!

3) Give them flexible dates
When you are emailing a company make sure you provide as flexible dates as possible. For example, if you’re trying to get work experience at Christmas, state your whole Christmas holiday e.g. ‘December 16th-January 10th’. Otherwise, if you state specifics such as, ‘January 3rd-10th’, you could become a rejection very quickly as that week may be booked up, but the one before it would have been free. So remember, if you choose only certain dates then you’re greatening the chances of your application being rejected. I’ve never had a company email back and say ‘We can’t do the dates you have given us, are you free any other time?’

4) Send a letter as opposed to email
Letters are an easy way to make it more personal as it will probably get opened and read. Also, it shows that you are extra keen to get a placement at their company  as it shows time and effort has been made – as opposed to an email being less effort as it can be forwarded on numerous times.
As this is a costly alternative, perhaps act on this tip, if you would like a placement at a larger company where you can’t get a personal email address.

5) Be patient!
This is a very important tip. I probably sent out 20 emails and 10 letters in March for work placements in summer, and only a handful of them actually responded, and I only got 1 placement booked out of all those companies. I didn’t get my response until May – so I had to wait three months before I was offered a placement. Additionally, I’ve experienced companies that have kept my CV on file and a week before I wanted to start a placement with them; they emailed me asking if I would still like a placement. So some companies can be very slow at booking and others can be booked up in February until December.

Remember, you need to read thoroughly the application requirements (I’ve spoken in detail about this in my previous post). Some companies only have one requirement like ‘send us your CV’ - others want a lot more. So, make sure you act on all the requirements specified as it will probably be perceived as lazy otherwise. 
Lastly, a lot of companies request that the subject line of your email should be ‘work experience’ for example, on the other hand, I’m a bit sceptical and I don’t like to do this in case they don’t read the email at all – after all they already know what it’s about. However, this is me being paranoid, whether I’m right or wrong, don’t feel obliged to subject line your emails. Maybe go for more ambiguous wording?       

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