When you’re job hunting, there are plenty of tips out there about how to get noticed—and most of them don’t involve submitting a standard cover letter and Word .doc resume to a generic email address. If you’ve never tried cold emailing before, the process can feel awkward or even invasive, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are our tips on how to reach out to strangers respectfully, plus some techniques for writing subject lines that will get you noticed in their inboxes.
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What is cold emailing?
Basically, it’s a way of reaching out to companies you love—that may not have listed job openings at the moment—through direct contact.
More often than not, contacting the right person with a short, tailored email will serve you better than applying for jobs the old-fashioned way. To cold email, you do some mild to moderate internet stalking of your favorite companies, find the name of someone you think will know what to do with your resume, then try reaching them by emailing a series of likely addresses (firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, etc).
There are some great resources on how to get started with cold emailing (we covered it here or try here, here, and here) so we’ll skip straight to the rules of how to write your actual message.
Preparing to cold email
Rule #1: Don’t Skip Steps
Before cold emailing, gather your list of potential contacts through LinkedIn or website team pages. Next, make sure to check LinkedIn to see if anyone in your network is connected to the people you’re trying to reach. It’s always better to reach out through a mutual acquaintance because it automatically establishes a level of trust. But sometimes reaching out to someone you don’t know can’t be helped so…just try it out.
Rule #2: Tread Carefully
Do your research. We’re talking all the research—on the company itself, the department that interests you, the role you’d like to fill, even the person you’re trying to email. If you want them to respond to your message, treat them with the deference they deserve by putting in the work. If we haven’t mentioned it enough already, the key to all cold emailing is: respect.
Your email should be short and tailored to your contact—meaning if you’re not willing to write an original message for each person, you’re not ready to cold email.
Drafting your email
Rule #3: Keep It Short
One-page cover letters serve you fine when they’re actually a requirement of the job application, but when you’re cold-emailing, be mindful of the person’s time. Your email should be short and specifically tailored to the company and your contact, meaning if you’re not willing to write an original message for each person, you’re not ready to cold email.
By tailoring your emails, you’ll ensure that you come across as genuine, passionate, and a potential asset. Once you’ve written a summary of your standard cover letter, including how you would specifically benefit the company at hand, you’re ready for the pesky final step:
Writing the perfect subject line
Rule #4: Make It Dynamic
“Possible Job Opportunity?” = Not dynamic.
“An inquiry” = Nope.
When you sit down to write your subject line, try these techniques:
- Don’t be afraid to get personal: Have you ever heard that tip about using someone’s name regularly while speaking with them? It makes us all feel special for someone to remember and use our name in conversation. It means they’re paying attention and actively participating. The same applies to cold emailing. It’s always smart to try working the person’s name into the subject line.
- Use that research: You looked into the company before cold emailing for a reason. Now use that knowledge. Reference a specific project they’ve recently completed or the name of the department you’re interested in. These unique details will prove you’re not spam and that you care.
- Keep it short and weigh your words: Skip the fillers, keep it short, and put the important stuff at the beginning. We all get bored. Make it easy for them.
- Provide value: Why should they want to read your email, let alone interview or hire you? What makes you an asset? Get specific in your subject line.
If you luck out and have a common connection:
“Anna, Mark Johnson recommended I reach out”
If you don’t know the contact at all, but found and read some of their published work:
“Ms. Connor, I loved your LinkedIn article on networking”
If you don’t have much to go on at all, offer value:
“Social Media Manager with Non-Profit Expertise Interested In Helping Your Team”
When all else fails, try a question:
“Any advice for someone who loves the marketing work you’re doing at Company X?”
This article originally appeared on Career Contessa.
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