Once every few weeks I get an email from someone who wants to work with Praxis or with me directly.
These emails have given me some solid positive case studies to showcase on the blog but they’ve also given me a good deal of examples of what NOT to do when you’re looking to get a job.
Most of these emails aren’t “bad” in a traditional sense. They’re well spoken, formatted, short, professional, and the person is clearly excited about the opportunity. Usually they’re written by someone who probably could create value.
So why don’t they get the job? They don’t use the right triggers.
Below is an email I received a good while back from a young professional who wanted to work with Praxis.
I heard you on the Tom Woods show a while back and, as a result, have been tracking the progress of Praxis. I admire what you guys are doing and strongly believe in the necessity of disrupting the education system.
How can I get involved? I have a fairly diverse skill set, but would probably be most useful if there’s any need for social media marketing, raising brand awareness, empowering participants to be program evangelists, etc. I would just love to work with you guys in any way that would be beneficial to the company.
This is fairly standard email that bright, ambitious young people send when they’re excited about a job opportunity. It fails for three main reasons.
1. It puts all the responsibility onto the potential employer
Never, ever ask “how can I get involved?” or anything similar. Questions like “what are you looking for?” or “are you hiring?” are equally bad. The often forgotten truth is that most business people are too busy to know exactly what they need at any given time.
It’s why I was able to make a living after leaving college working with entrepreneurs on projects that often seemed totally obvious to me. My clients were focused on building their business.
If you ask them to think up ways for you to be valuable to them, you’ve already asked too much of them up front. The time cost alone won’t be worth the employer giving it much consideration. Instead, you should tell them exactly what you want to do for them.
2. The deliverables are not clear enough
To be fair, this person did offer some examples of what she could do. She mentioned “social media” and “brand awareness,” but these are broad categories and it’s hard to know what exactly she wants to do.
What would she do differently with our social media channels? What outcomes does she expect? Does she have any ideas she could start implementing on day 1 or am I going to have to sit with her to brainstorm?
It’s much better to say something like this:
I noticed you aren’t scheduling your social media in advance. I can create a Buffer account and schedule posts 30 days in advance for you so that you don’t need to think about it anymore. Buffer will also allow us to track popular posts and automatically repost them at popular posting times.
This would prove that she knows what she’s talking about and give the employer something to start with. It also makes it easy to say yes or no and you’re far more likely to get a positive response when you minimize the decision making process.
3. There’s no clear value add
Businesses do not exist to give you exciting, fulfilling work. Your love for a company and its product is not a reason for them to hire you.
Tell them what you want to do and why it will be valuable. The more you can quantify the value with numbers or by pointing to what others have done, the better. Going back to the example above, you could make the case that scheduling posts in advance will free up time for their marketing team or increase their traffic from social media by ensuring you’re always hitting optimal times.
In the absence of a strong value proposition, “I would just love to work with you guys in any way” sounds like “please do me a favor.” You never want this.
We ended up passing on this girl even though I don’t doubt that she is bright and capable. We didn’t really know what we could have her focus on and at the time we were so busy that we all just forgot about the email for a while.
A year later, we got an email from someone interested in working with us that we couldn’t pass on and took her on as an intern immediately.