With email, you can prove you’re an idiot in 150 words or less

ROAMShort email is a great idea. But even a short email can be vacuous. A short, dumb email is the quickest possible way to make a bad impression. Learn not to be boring.

Here’s a recruiting email that Ken Camp received. It’s not only short, it’s spectacularly content-free. Here’s the whole thing, meaningless words in bold:

Subject: Opportunity

Good morning,

Our client is a newly funded start-up focused on transforming real time content at the intersection of community and commerce. They are assembling a high-level Team and are positioned to disrupt business models in the real-time video space with a fresh model and line of thinking not yet seen in the sector. They are currently looking for a CTO to join the team.

I would love the opportunity to discuss the opportunity with you.

Kind regards,

[Name redacted]
Recruiting Consultant


[Long, meaningless legal disclaimer follows, which I’ll mercifully omit.]

A real-time video startup is looking for a CTO. That’s the whole message. Everything else is fluff.

The meaning ratio of this short email is 6% — only 11 of 174 words (including the impotent disclaimer) are meaningful. That’s the lowest I’ve ever seen.

“Transforming real-time content,” “high-level Team” (why capitalize “Team?”), and “disrupt business models” are boilerplate tech cliches. From the first word — the subject line, “Opportunity” — you’ve got your finger on the delete button. Anyone really disruptive or technically competent would never respond to this email, which is up to its hairline in mediocrity.

The email does very succinctly and effectively communicates one message. It’s about the sender. Here’s the message we’re getting:

Subject: Help me — I’m a recruiter and things are getting hopeless.
I am beneath notice. I have a whole bunch of these emails to send out and I have no actual knowledge of the company, or you. I’m just trying to get through the day. Maybe somebody will respond and I won’t lose my job.

Why be boring and ordinary? Here are three ways the recruiter could have done better:

Subject: Video models are broken. Want to help fix them?
I’m working with a startup. They think real-time video is an opportunity but the rest of the world is doing it wrong. They need a CTO. Interested?

Subject: Are you technical enough to remake the world of video?
Television’s boring. Streaming video is, too. At least the way most people do it. I found some people who’d like to do it differently, and they’re hiring a CTO. Is that you?

Subject: Are your tech smarts really making a difference?
Technology executives imagine they’ll transform things. They rarely do. But you could, if you know enough about video.

You have 50 words to make a first impression. You can be effective. Or you can spread the word that you’ve got nothing going for you. It’s really up to you.

Graphic: The Noun Project

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