Tuesday, January 24, 2012

HR routine, German culture and catchy subject lines

Ever since, I also blog on career-related topics, I visit portals and read other blogs related to career, cv and cover letter writing, job hunt, etc as well. Karrierebibel is one of the premium addresses for that matter. Often ahead of the times as the recent blog shows.

The author pledges use of marketing or "catchy" phrases in the subject line of an application email sent by candidates. He suggests that subject lines are the opportunity to make the first impression on HR or hiring manager and hence should be written in a way that it attracts their attention and makes them interested in a candidate. He calls for abandonment of uniform subject lines (e.g. key account manager application) in favor of "catchy" phrases meant to emanate self-confidence and interest (e.g. your next key account manager).

Agreed. But yet disagreed.

Indeed, writing „application” in the subject line is boring. Especially, as application by e-mail are usually sent to an e-mail-address exclusively established for this purpose. On another hand, lucky those HR departments that receive applications with subject lines that include the position name. Those getting a reference to the job ad as well should consider themselves twice as lucky.

Disagreed because the advice misses the reality check with the HR routine. A few beliefs:
* HR folk like any other people like to have it simple, informative and to the point.
* HR appreciates candidates who make their life easy. One of the recruiters job is to keep track of applications received and there is nothing more annoying than not instantly knowing what position a candidate is applying for.
*“Catchy” lines make recruiters job cumbersome and get the job seeker the wrong kind of attention. Super out-of-the-box applications also in terms of subject line are usually a turn-off.
* Efforts put in phrasing subject lines go unnoticed as long as e-mail-applications are printed which I believe is still a common practice in German SMEs.

The advice is also disconnected with the German culture. German job seekers still struggle to make good advertisement for themselves in cover letters or show their motivation to do the job for the employer in question. They are culturally not programmed to show self-confidence. Americans are. Yet, a quick review of career advice sites in English shows that the majority recommends to refrain from marketing-like subject lines. Instead, they promote simplicity: Name, Position, Job Ad ID.
Notably, candidate’s name in the subject line is particularly of benefit, when HR forwards the short-listed applications to the hiring managers electronically.
Next, some folk suggests trying to stand out in the crowd of applicants by adding one of the following besides Name, Position, Job Ad ID:
* Putting the addressee’s name at the beginning of the subject line.
* Adding credentials behind once name
* Adding total number of years of experience
* Adding very unique and specialized skill

Lastly, whether marketing-like phrases can add to the success of a job application probably depends on the industry, which the author did not give any consideration to. For application in ad agencies, some creativity is beneficial for sure. For more conservative industries, keeping it simple should remain the rule.

My research shows that out of 2000 recent applications received at my current employer, only one candidate utilized the wording “gesucht? gefunden!!!” in the subject line. Needless to say: She did not get the job.

This blog refers greatly to the comments left by LinkedIn members.

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