|  June 30, 2013

How to write a cold email that will land you an interview

Anyone who has worked with me knows I’m big fan of the cold email. When applying for a job, I actually believe your application isn’t complete until you’ve sent one.

First off, what is a cold email?

Well, in my definition, it’s reaching out by email to someone you DO NOT know. Since The Prepary is all about the job search, we’re talking about using cold emails to express interest in a certain company or job. Note that I consider a 2nd-degree connection to someone (or a person you’ve gotten an introduction to)  more of a “warm email” and will cover those in a future post.

When is it most effective to send one?

Some people will say it’s very effective to send cold emails just to network, or to ask someone for coffee, or to find out how to get into a certain company. I don’t feel this way.

Keeping in mind that the person you are emailing is a complete stranger and doesn’t owe you anything at all, I recommend using cold emails in a very specific way…

To express interest in a job that you are both passionate about AND qualified for.

With that out of the way, let’s go into what components make a great cold email. There are really 3 main things that I find important.

what makes a great cold email

1. You are offering something to the recipient versus asking for something (aka: you bring something to the table)

For me, this is the most important point. When is the last time you went out of your way to help a complete stranger get a job? My guess is that it doesn’t happen often. No one is going to hand you an interview because you happened to email them. They are a lot more likely to help you out if there is something in it for them.

What’s in it for them you might ask? Well, say you are cold emailing about a PR assistant job. Let’s assume you are either reaching out to a recruiter at the company or someone on the PR team. If that PR Assistant role is posted online and “open”, it means they are trying to fill it. Filling a job is hard work – it’s hard to find great candidates who are also a good match for the work environment and team culture.

If you are qualified for that PR Assistant job, know a ton about the company, and are dying to work there, you reaching out is helping them solve that problem — the problem of needing to fill that job.

So what’s in it for them? An amazing candidate is essentially showing up at their doorstep! Of course there are also other things that you can “bring to the table” as well. Perhaps feedback on a product, knowledge in a certain area, volunteering to help out with something, etc.

As long as there is something in it for them, you’re already on the right track to making your cold email effective.

2. It’s personalized & thoughtful

Copying and pasting the same exact cover letter and changing the company names isn’t going to work – and the same thing applies to cold emails. An impersonal and hasty cold email isn’t going to be effective.

A great cold email is personalized. With today’s resources, even if someone is a complete stranger, they will likely still have an online presence. Understanding their work history via LinkedIn, reading a blog post they wrote, or finding some other way to relate to them will help your outreach.

People like to know that if they are taking the time to read something, you actually took some time to write it. So make sure you come across as thoughtful and not spammy.

3. It’s respectful & not entitled

You may want to check out this related post that covers the basic etiquette of reaching out cold (skip to the bottom of the page). The most important piece of etiquette is to not make it sound like the recipient owes you anything, or that you are entitled to their time or help in any way.

There is nothing worse than someone demanding to meet with you or coming across as arrogant. I don’t even know you, remember? So that’s the first way to get me to the delete button.

In closing…

Cold emails are a great way to get your resume seen and considered (take a look at this success story). You won’t get a response every time, but it sure will save you from the resume black hole.

Had success with cold emailing for a job? Would love to hear your stories in the comments!

Image courtesy of minted.com

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