Dear esteemed applicant

I am sorry for not addressing you by name. I know that that’s not nice, and I know how it feels. Why do I know? Because you did not address me by name. You started your e-mail with some generic address, such as “Dear Professor” (which – by the way – is not my job title) or “Dear Sir” (which – by the way – is not my gender).

Anyway. You write that you are extremely interested in the research that is going on in my lab. So interested in fact that you would like to come work with me. Great! But apparently your interest does not extend to having read our papers or to thinking about our research area or to even vaguely knowing what we do. Or if you do, you have neglected to talk about it in your e-mail. Which is a shame.

You do talk about a few other things, like how eager you are to learn specific new techniques. None of which we actually do in our lab. Which is also a shame.

It is almost as if you don’t know anything about my lab at all. Which is a pity, because we really are doing some interesting research. You should check it out some time, here is a link.

But let’s be honest, what you probably did is just put together a long list of group leaders and send the exact e-mail to all of them. How many did you send, I wonder. 50? 100? 500? And did you get replies? Probably not many, and probably none positive. And maybe you are genuinely looking for a job and genuinely wondering what went wrong.

So, here is a bit of advice. Look, you are probably a smart person. You have attached your CV which lists your educational achievements and your prior experience. It’s probably fine. But I don’t really care. What I care about is people who care about what we do. You can be the smartest person in the universe, if you are not interested in the work we do, then you will not succeed in our lab, and – perhaps more importantly – you will not enjoy it here. So really, what I am looking for is people who can make a case for what it is they want to do and why our lab is a good match for them.

If you can do that, fine. But you should have done this right away. If you just write me a generic e-mail, chances are I won’t reply, and you will never have a chance to explain yourself. I am rather busy, and unfortunately, there are many mass e-mailers just like you. I don’t have time to reply to job inquiries that I don’t think are serious. I don’t know for sure, but I think most of the 499 other people you contacted are in a similar situation.

You are better off if you spend some time researching exactly what you want to do and writing five well-researched and thoughtful letters, than you are writing 500 of the kind you did.

Please do not reply to this e-mail. Frankly, you blew your chance here. But take this advice to heart in your future journey. I wish you all the best.

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