The number one mistake in cold job applications

Andrew Macrae
2 min readJan 18, 2017


I’ve seen lots of cold job applications, and they all have one thing wrong with them.

If you know a young jobseeker, pass this advice along!

Getting past the gatekeeper

I do social media and frontline customer response for a hospitality business here in Melbourne.

So I’m the gatekeeper.

I triage the email and decide whether or not to send your application to the boss.

And 99.9% of your emails are terrible.

Literally 999 out of a thousand go straight into the trash.

And every single one makes the same mistake.

It’s not about you

I don’t care about your passions.

I don’t care about your aspirations.

I don’t care about your career goals.

I don’t care about your needs or the hours you want to work.

I don’t care about the reasons you want a job with this business.

When I decide whether to pass your email on to the boss, I’m interested in just one question:

Can you help solve our problems?

Do you understand the business enough to know what its problems are likely to be?

Can you demonstrate that you know how to solve them?

Can you show how your skills and experience will contribute to the business?

The cold hard facts

Maybe this sounds harsh.

Actually, it’s just how life works in a society of interdependent beings.

You matter as an individual only to the extent you can be helpful to other people.

A time and place

Of course there’s a time and a place for you to talk about your needs.

It’s when you’ve been offered the job.

It’s when we have an interdependent relationship.

It’s not during your pitch email.

To whom it may concern

And here’s another random tip:

Find out the boss’s name and address the email personally.

Seriously, no one ever does this.

It’s so easy to stand out.

  1. Call the business and ask the name of the person you should address your application to.
  2. Write that person’s name at the top of your message.

Congratulations, you are now better than almost everyone else who has ever emailed the business.

And needless to say you should only send your application to one business at a time.

Email is evil

Don’t send an email unless there’s really no other way.

Email is the worst communication medium ever.

Email is so cheap as to be worthless.

Email is so easy to ignore.

Drop in to the business.

Ask for a job in person.



Andrew Macrae

Freelance writer and editor. Sign up for my newsletter about writing, freelancing and whatever is worrying me