Updated June, 2021
Does the thought of sending a cold email for a job seem intimidating or pushy? Even if it makes you feel uncomfortable, you shouldn’t shy away from the opportunity to pitch your value to a company you’re targeting—especially if you are a great fit.
Cold emails have a lot in common with networking events. There’s nothing wrong with walking up to someone to introduce yourself at a conference or panel because that’s what it takes to get your card in someone’s hand. You wouldn’t, however, sit back and hope that person distinguishes you from the crowd just because you’re in attendance.
Job applications work the same way. Entering your resume into an intimidating raffle of other executives and directors likely isn’t enough to get your name to the top of list—but cutting the chase could.
Your strategy will depend on whether you’re inquiring about a position that’s publicly posted or one that doesn’t yet exist. Either way, your first order of business will be the same: nailing the introduction.
5 Steps to Writing a Successful Cold Email
Usually getting to know someone should start with the first email—but that isn’t the case with cold correspondence. Before you even type in the recipient’s address, you should know intricate details about the company, its challenges, and its culture. How else would you craft a credible email to a complete stranger?
Researching helps accomplish a few things. First, you’ll get a sense of mission and goals, which directly relates to the kinds of jobs being posted. If you’re aiming to position yourself as a candidate for a role not listed, you can still study openings to inform your value proposition.
Lastly, spending time with the company’s public persona will help you determine the best voice and style for a cold email. If you’re using startup lingo for a corporate-level introduction, your reader will notice the disconnect. Once you’re armed with this knowledge, you’re ready to dive in.
Find the right contact.
Scoping out who posted a position online isn’t as hard as it once was. LinkedIn often displays the name of a recruiter, hiring manager, or staff member involved with team building efforts. However, your goal is to jump the line, so it’s best to do some digging until you find the person you’d work directly with or under. After you’ve researched the company, you should already have a better idea of the internal hierarchy. Then you can use LinkedIn or public media mentions to briefly sort titles to target the top of the departmental totem pole. Once you’ve found a name and title, locating a direct email address through public searches is easy.
Tailor your subject line to the person and the culture.
Adding a bit of personality to help yourself stand out isn’t a bad thing, unless you stand out in the wrong ways. If you discover quirky employee bios while researching, a more conversational email will show you’re a team fit without you even saying so. At that point, you can plan your subject line accordingly. I suggest incorporating the person’s name and a quick mention why you’re writing.
“Hi Dave, hoping to share ideas about Company’s future marketing strategy.” “Angie, can we chat about Company’s international expansion over a game of ping-pong?”
Offer your expertise rather than asking for a job.
A bullet-proof cold email can’t be a one-sided conversation. If you rattle off all the reasons you want a job instead of spelling out how you would benefit the team, you’re going to get ignored. When it comes to the body of the email, you want to refer back to your elevator pitch with a specific emphasis on what you can do for this new colleague. Open by stating who you are and how you’ve come to be connected to the company, then dive into the details.
“Hi Maria, I’m a UX Group Director who helps companies streamline the digital product development lifecycle for optimal user experiences. I’ve been keeping up with the progress your team has made throughout the past year, particularly in regards to interactive web design. I’m pretty impressed by the tactical decisions you’ve made to achieve such growth in so little time.”
If you’re positioning yourself to secure a role that hasn’t been added to the roster, approach the body as if you’re the solution to the company’s problem. Again, this knowledge has to come from your research for you to successfully illustrate your ability to fill a need not currently being met.
“Dear Enrico, My name is Akeem and I’m a global business expansion specialist. I have admired Company for several years now and have followed your recent efforts to launch a secondary operating hub in London. Having been in the position myself, I understand what a challenge it can be to direct operations and lead a dozen teams from two different countries. Luckily, my experience has enabled me to work out some of those kinks and I would consider it a privilege to share these insights with you.”
Framing is everything when it comes to cold emails. If you aren’t sure whether you’ve achieved the right message, change the contact’s name to your name and imagine a candidate sending you this same email. Does it emphasize what the person has to offer? Would you keep reading?
Keep it short.
There’s a good chance the person you write to will read your email on their phone or tablet. If they have to scroll, they probably won’t read the entire email. Aim to keep it within the main reading space by phrasing any relevant accomplishments as simply as possible. You should also avoid giant chunks of text by limiting paragraphs to about three sentences.The idea is to get in there, introduce yourself, present your value statements, show how you can help solve a problem, and politely close.
Don’t forget the ace up your sleeve.
In your closing call to action—which should either be a request to secure an informational interview or to meet about a potential opportunity—you can also mention and add a tidbit to make yourself memorable. Drawing a blank? If you’re applying for an actual position, submit a previous project sample with a few notes about how it could be adapted to the new company. Otherwise, spending some time to create something totally unique to your cold email can be a big hit. Think white papers, a pitch deck, or a short-term business plan with actionable steps for the company to take.
Even though shooting a cold email out to professional cyberspace can be intimidating, there is no real downside. At worst, you’re ignored—but at best? You land a job and a new contact to boot.
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