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12 Tips for Avoiding Spam Filters

by Susan P. Joyce

The use of software "filters" to stop junk e-mail is growing, and these filters may be damaging your ability to send your resume or a job inquiry through e-mail. Your e-mail may never reach your intended recipient if it gets caught in a filter.

Even if someone is expecting to receive a message from you, these strategies for avoiding the filtering software traps should help. Note that doing any one of these things, MAY be OK, but doing several of them in the same message is probably asking for trouble.

Don't send a message to more than 10 or 20 addressees at one time.

Resumes are not good candidates for bulk e-mail, anyway. And, a large quantity of addressees on a message may cause some of the messages to be viewed as junk by some filters.

Don't send a message to "undisclosed recipients."

It's good netiquette, but it's a red flag for the filters. Use different words that mean the same thing if you feel you must send a message to multiple recipients.

Don't change the content of the "from" field to something that will disagree with the contents of the real e-mail header.

You might be tempted to do this if you are sending a message from work and trying to disguise that fact.  It's a dangerous thing to do, for many reasons.

Make sure that there is a valid address in the "Reply to" field of your message.

Your e-mail software may not require you to put an address in this field, but, frequently, it is one of the red flags a filter will use to identify a junk message.

Don't use all capital letters in the subject, and don't put spaces between those letters if you MUST capitalize them.

Keep your e-mail messages short, even the ones that include your ASCII text resume.

This is NOT the time to use that 10-page resume. Use a shorter version that won't look like junk mail.

Avoid using numbers in the subject of your message, particularly at the end of the line.

Try to avoid numbers in your e-mail address (like if you can. If you can't avoid it, be very careful to avoid the other items in this list. A better solution is to change your e-mail address to one that has fewer numbers in it (like

If you send your resume as an HTML e-mail, keep the background white and the letters black.

Other background colors with colored letters probably won't print well, either, which makes the resume useless as a resume, even if it does get through the filters.

Be careful throwing around large dollar amounts, as in, "increased sales by XX million dollars."

Pick the most significant accomplishments, and try to limit such references to no more than 1 or 2 times per message.

Watch your language!

Think of the products and services most frequently offered in junk messages (e.g. a popular, expensive, and well-known drug for men) or words frequently used in those messages (e.g. a word that starts with "f" and rhymes with "tree" or the word that starts with "sp" and rhymes with "ham"). Exclude those words from your messages no matter how appropriate.

Messages sent to generic e-mail addresses may also be blocked (e.g.,, etc.).

Try to get a real person's e-mail address - call and ask for a person's name, if you can. If a job posting specifies responding to a generic address, as in these examples, you are probably safe using it.

Note: with MOST software filters, messages get stopped when they demonstrate several of these characteristics, not any single one. And, the triggers will change over time as spammers also change their tactics to beat the filters. As the spammers modify their approaches, the filters will change as well to defeat them. This could be called a "vicious cycle." So stay alert, and stay tuned!

THE SILVER LINING: Use this situation to your advantage!

It is a legitimate reason to call an employer to check to see if they received your message. And, MAYBE, when you have them on the phone, you can: connect with a live person who will help you get that job, or do a soft-selling job to get that interview, or discover the reason you didn't get interviewed, or learn what the "next steps" are in their process, or who has a reservation about hiring you and what it is.

Observe the common characteristics of the bulk unsolicited commercial e-mail you receive, and do your best to avoid having your e-mail demonstrate the same characteristics.

About Susan Joyce: In 1995, Susan emerged from a corporate career to found NETability, Inc., a Web site development and consulting company, teach online job-hunting skills and grow, the award-winning job search portal. For more than a decade, she has written and spoken extensively on the subject of online job search to groups ranging from the U.S. Department of Labor to local support groups. Susan is truly a pioneer in this field. She has been quoted in TIME Magazine, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and countless other publications, both online and offline. Susan has an M.B.A. in Information Systems and a B.S. in Education.