I get a lot of email, and I’m zealous about staying at Inbox Zero using the Getting Things Done productivity techniques.
One of my favorite ways to handle email fast is by using templates, or as GMail calls them, Canned Responses. Email programs like Outlook let you set up multiple signatures, and I use those to respond fast to common types of emails. When I get a job posting from a recruiter, I just click Insert Signature, Recruiters, and in pops this:
My Canned Response for Recruiters
Thanks for the email! If you can forward on the full job description and salary range, I’ll be happy to check it out and pass it along to my network.
After being repeatedly burned (hey, buddy, check out this job – oh, sorry, I didn’t know it only paid $X for Y years of experience) I have a policy against forwarding jobs without a salary range & a job description. (I hate to say this, but “depends on experience” isn’t a range, either.)
Thanks, and have a great day!
About That Recruiter Template
The recruiter is completely clear on what they need to do next, and there’s no hard feelings. Most of the time, believe it or not, the recruiter really does reply back with a rate. It’s not usually a good rate – think $30/hour for 10 years of experience – but sometimes it actually does make sense, and I pass it on to people who I know that are looking.
Sometimes the job description includes several different jobs, and I give constructive feedback about why they’re having a tough time finding the right candidate. Recruiters often thank me and pass that feedback along to their clients to help reset their expectations.
Another kind of email I get a lot is the Technical Support Question. I really wish I could answer every question I get from strangers every day, but I get dozens per day, and I want to help people find better solutions faster. Here’s how I respond to those:
My Canned Response for Questions
Hi! Rather than give you a fish, I’d rather teach you how to fish. There’s a ton of great places to get your questions answered online for free, and you won’t have to wait for one specific person to get freed up.
For small, non-urgent questions with only one possible answer – post on http://DBA.StackExchange.com or http://SQLServerCentral.com. Try to include as much specifics as you can so that a stranger can try to reproduce the problem you’re facing. If you haven’t gotten a clear answer within two days, email us the link to the question, and we’ll help out.
For “just curious” questions, try to figure out how to run an experiment yourself to get the answer. You’ll learn an amazing amount of stuff by getting your hands dirty and trying it yourself. Then, if you don’t get the results you expect, you’ll be able to use your sample code when you post a question on those sites above.
For urgent, down-right-now problems in production environments – call Microsoft at 1-800-642-7676 to open a support case. It’s $500, and they work the problem with you until it’s done. You can’t find a better consulting deal than that.
For bigger-picture questions that require a discussion about your environment – that’s where consulting comes in. While we do wish we could give custom one-on-one advice about your production environment for free, we have to put food on our tables. If you’d like to talk about what a consulting engagement looks like, let us know and we’d be glad to set up a free 30-minute call about our services.
I know it’s not the fast answer you wanted – and like you can probably guess, this is an email template – but I want to make sure you get the fastest answers possible, that cost as little money as possible.
Hope that helps!
About that Question Template
Yeah, every now and then I get angry replies back saying I’m a stuck-up jerk who won’t take time to help a stranger. I understand where they’re coming from – I’ve just long since surpassed the email volume where I can handle every free question, and I’ve had to come to peace with that. It’s the blessing and curse that comes with running a blog.
Most people don’t reply, though, and sometimes I go into Stack Exchange and look for the question they asked. I get so excited when I see they posted the question and got the help they needed within minutes or hours for free.
That’s so awesome – I love the satisfaction of knowing that somewhere, this person has a whole new world of fast, free help open to them, and I helped make it happen.