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How to Email HR Personnel to Answer a Job Ad

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Many organizations depend on human resources personnel to recruit and select new employees. HR recruiters or employment specialists receive resumes and applications, conduct preliminary interviews and send the best-qualified candidates' materials to the department hiring manager. As a job candidate, your email answering a job ad should reflect that you know HR is doing the preliminary vetting and that you want the HR rep to pass along your resume to another decision maker in the company.

Make It Personal

When you check your own mailbox and find letters addressed to "Homeowner" or "Addressee," you might not even open them because you figure it's junk mail. The same thing applies when you send an email letter on a job listing. Personalize your email by using the HR rep's name and formal job title rather than something generic like, "HR Department." A personally addressed email is more likely to get the HR rep's attention.

Just Ask

If the job posting contains only a generic HR email address, such as [email protected], be resourceful to get the recruiter's or hiring manager's business email address. Contact the HR department directly. Don't be shy about doing this -- chances are, they'll appreciate your diligence. When you reach the HR staffer, simply say, "I'm Jane Doe and I'm very interested in working for Acme Company. But I'd like to make a good first impression by addressing my cover letter to the person who is receiving applications for the employee relations position. Would you please give me the proper spelling and email address for your HR manager?"

Use Standard Business Format

Now that you have the person's name, don't settle for an informal approach for your email. Use standard business format. Begin your message with, "Dear Mr. Smith," skip down two line spaces and explain the purpose of your email. If you're including the cover letter in the body of the email, format it just like you would a regular business letter. Use two to three paragraphs, the first of which should be an introduction and why you're applying for the job. For example, you could write, "Dear Mr. Smith, My qualifications are perfect for your HR department staffing needs. I'm very interested in learning more about the employee relations specialist vacancy. Please review my resume for more information about my 10 years of experience as an employee relations representative in the health care industry."

Do It Their Way

No matter how clever you think your job application approach might be, follow the company's instructions for applying to the job. This is especially important when you're writing to HR because you'll probably be held to a higher standard if you have an HR background. If the job posting says to include the cover letter in the body of the email, do that. Some employers prefer that you attach the cover letter and resume as separate documents, while other companies want everything in one attachment. Read the application instructions carefully and follow them to a T.

When The Email Is Just A Transmittal

In cases where you're instructed to send your cover letter and resume as attachments, use the email message as a transmittal document. Start the email message with the same formal greeting -- "Dear Mr. Smith" -- and simply state that you are attaching your application materials. Indicate the job for which you're applying and where you saw the posting. For example, you could write one short paragraph, such as, "I am interested in learning more about the employee relations specialist position. Please see my cover letter and resume, which I am attaching in Word format. I look forward to your favorable consideration."

When HR Isn't Your Goal

If the job you want isn't in the HR department, make the necessary adjustments to indicate you want the addressee to review your qualifications and then forward them to the hiring manager. This process is common for many organizations: A recruiter receives resumes and applications, conducts the preliminary interview and narrows down the applicant pool to those who fit the company's needs. In this case, just say that you are applying for the job and that you are looking forward to the appropriate hiring manager receiving your resume.


Ruth Mayhew has been writing since the mid-1980s, and she has been an HR subject matter expert since 1995. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry," and she has been cited in numerous publications, including journals and textbooks that focus on human resources management practices. She holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Ruth resides in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.

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