As an assignment for my class, my students are required to write a letter to someone in the entertainment industry and request an informational interview to find out more about their career. Ideally, they hit it off, and a mentor/mentee relationship is born. After observing both the successes and failures of my students, I thought I'd highlight some guidelines that help in getting your email responded to.
1. All emails should be sent during business hours. Unless you have an existing relationship that dictates otherwise, professional emails should be sent during business hours in a business week. Industry standard is 9:30 A.M.-6:30 P.M. with a 1 P.M. lunch break. It's weird to get an email from a student, intern, or assistant that was sent at 10:30 P.M. on a Saturday. You look disorganized, and you assume a familiarity that you have not yet earned.
2. Always be brief. Long emails, especially from people you don't know, are automatically pushed off until the end of the day. If it requires too much thought, it's left in the inbox to be read later, forgotten about, and/or deleted.
3. Close your email with a question that is easy to answer.
Weak: "I'd like to schedule a meeting with you sometime."
Better: "When are you free to meet?"
Best: "Are you free to meet on Oct 29 at 3 P.M.?"
4. Always include your contact information in your signature. Duh.
5. Get to the point. If someone says, "Sure, I can meet you," give him or her concrete times that you are available. No need to go into days you can't meet or why.
6. Follow up. If you don't get a response, check back in a few days or a week with a polite and simple attachment to your original email. If you don't hear back after that, drop it. They really don't want to meet with you. Sucks, but it happens. Figure out another way to get what you are looking for.
Feel free to email me your own tips to getting emails returned and I'll feature them in a future blog post.