How to Cold Email for a Job: Improving Your Career Prospects


If you’re looking to improve your career development or change industries but feel like the employment market has stalled, you need to learn how to cold email for a job. When it comes to job hunting, applying to postings on job boards isn’t enough. Besides, most roles aren’t advertised anyway.

The key to success is staying proactive. As daunting as cold emailing might sound, sending an unsolicited message is one of the easiest things you can do to increase your chances of landing your dream job.

What Is a Cold Email?

Before we get into how to cold email for a job, let’s talk about cold emails in general. What are they? And what is their purpose?

A cold email is a direct message you send a stranger without their prior permission.

Cold emails are useful for:

  • Generating warm leads and growing a business
  • Attracting top talent
  • Getting the job you want

Cold emailing is similar to cold calling, except that unprompted emails are far less intrusive than unwanted calls.

Furthermore, the goal of cold emailing isn’t to sell a service, product, or even yourself. It’s about starting a conversation.

When used correctly, a cold email can help you get your foot in the door.

Cold Emailing: Pros and Cons

You want to know how to cold email for a job. But is sending a cold email to a prospective employer even worth your time? Or would you be better off shifting your attention elsewhere?

By far, the biggest advantage of learning how to cold email for a job is the possibility of discovering that the organization you’d love to work for is hiring.

According to NPR, up to 80 percent of jobs are never advertised. That’s a problematic statistic if you spend the majority of your time scouring job boards.

Also, a cold email can be much more effective than a cover letter responding to a job ad. By sending a cold email, you’re showing a potential employer that you’re proactive and passionate about the industry you work in or are looking to break into.

But keep in mind that most people get too many emails as it is. Employers are busy and have neither the time nor the desire to deal with strangers asking for a job.

Additionally, because cold emails are unsolicited, they can come off as cheap sales pitches. Writing a thoughtful letter that showcases your authentic self isn’t easy and requires a lot of time and effort.

Finally, knowing how to cold email for a job doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you’ll get a response from the company you reach out to, regardless of how strong and targeted your message might be.

Nonetheless, by following the best practices for cold emailing, you can enhance your chances of success.

How to Cold Email for a Job?

Employers receive hundreds of emails every day, which means that you have a limited amount of time to make an impression.

You need to know how to cold email for a job, and you need to know how to do it well.

Below is a step-by-step approach on how to cold email for a job.

Research, research, research

How to cold email for a job? The first step is simple: Do your research!

Start by making a list of companies you’d most like to work for. Then, visit each company’s website to learn more about the organization’s mission, goals, and culture.

A glance at a company’s current openings can help you come up with an irresistible value proposition.

At the very least, studying the company you’re about to get in touch with will help you determine the style and tone of voice you should be using in your cold email.

For example, if you’re reaching out to a big corporation, the very last thing you want to do is use startup lingo. On the other hand, if you’re seeking employment at a startup, you probably don’t want to be too formal.

What’s the address?

The next step in learning how to cold email for a job is slightly more complicated. You need to find the right person to contact.

If you send your carefully devised email to a generic company address, it’s highly unlikely that it’ll ever get read.

Even if someone does open your email, it might leave no impression on them. Chances that it’ll end up in the inbox of the appropriate decision-maker are slim to non-existent.

Pinpointing the exact person you need to reach out to isn’t easy. But it’s not impossible either.

You don’t necessarily need to contact the HR manager.

Finding someone who appears to be in a somewhat senior position within the division is more than enough, regardless of whether that someone is the head of the department or a manager.

You can even message an employee who works in a similar role. If you’re lucky, they’ll pass on your email to the right person.

While some businesses have an “About” section on their website that lists all of their employees, most companies keep such information confidential. So unless you luck out, you’ll have to put on your detective hat.

LinkedIn is an excellent tool for finding potential contacts. All you have to do is search for the company that interests you and click “People” on the left-hand side to see some of the company’s current employees.

Alternatively, search for a specific department or position (such as “marketing” or “editor”) in the search box at the top, click on “All Filters,” and type in the name of the company under “Current companies.” Then, press “Apply” to see a list of people working in that particular department or role.

There’s a tool for that!

Can’t find an email address for your target contact? Use a free lookup tool such as SellHack.

All you have to do is type in the first and last name of your target contact, their company, and their mail domain. Then, hit search. If the person’s email address is somewhere on the internet, the tool should be able to locate it.

Generally, most companies use a standard email format that consists of an employee’s name and the name of the company (i.e., name@company.com).

See if you can find an email address of another employee within the organization. Use the same email format, replacing their name with the name of your desired contact.

It’s all about the connection

Ever noticed how you naturally prefer people that are just like you?

That’s because similarity draws people together. People are more likely to help you if you share similar experiences or interests.

Use human nature to your advantage by finding a connection between you and your target contact.

To do that, you’ll want to do a quick Google search on your contact person. Keep an eye out for a personal blog or a social media account.

You’re looking for anything that will help you construct an individualized cold email, such as mutual connections and shared interests. Your interests don’t necessarily have to be professional; perhaps you both love cats.

Remember to refer back to the recipient’s LinkedIn account too, especially if it lists notable achievements or recent awards.

But don’t overdo it. You want to make your cold email feel warmer by connecting on a genuine level. People can instinctively tell when someone isn’t sincere.

The first thing they see

When you send a cold email, the first thing that the recipient sees is the subject line.

Ideally, you want the subject line to either pique the reader’s curiosity or provide utility.

Generally, when people aren’t busy, they prefer subject lines that intrigue them. But when they’re buried in work, utility wins every time.

Consequently, when you’re trying to reach someone important, choose a practical subject line over one that is entertaining.

Overall, your subject line should be short and creative.

Use the subject line to tell the recipient why he should open your email. If you have a mutual acquaintance, include the person’s name in the subject line. Avoid questions (including “Quick question”) and personal greetings (such as “Hello!”).

Presentation is important too. Subject lines in title-case tend to have a higher open rate than those in lower-case.

Lower-case letters are too informal. Conversely, a subject line in title-case provides a sense of authority and makes it seem like you know what you’re talking about.

To whom it may concern

Generic greetings don’t cut it. Avoid lines such as “Dear Sir” or “To Whom It May Concern.”

Start your email with a professional yet straightforward greeting (such as “Hi”) and always use a person’s name, even if you’re sending your message to a non-specific address.

It might seem pushy and even aggressive to use the name of the person that’s in charge of the department you’re interested in or even the CEO of the organization in a greeting, especially if you’re sending an email to a generic address. But anything’s better than cringe-worthy generalities.

Condense your life story

Now that you’ve greeted your contact, it’s time to introduce yourself using a one-sentence bio. If you have multiple jobs or diverse interests, mention only those that apply to the role you’re going for.

Then, note how you found the recipient’s details and explain why you’re reaching out.

Back it up

Don’t underestimate the importance of a strong pitch when it comes to learning how to cold email for a job.

You want to grab the recipient’s attention by proving that you’re a good fit for the organization. In other words, you need to be able to connect the company’s goals with your abilities.

Show the target contact what it is that you can do to help the company, not the other way around. Is there a specific problem that you can solve? If so, how?

By offering value before you receive value, you provide the recipient with the motivation to respond to your email.

By far, the best way to show the company that you know your stuff is by including a link or an attachment to your streamlined portfolio or any other relevant evidence of your work.

The key word here is “relevant.” Sending samples of projects you’ve worked on that have no connection to the role you’re going for is pointless.

But what if you have nothing pertinent to show?

In that case, you might want to consider creating something unique for the company, such as a tailored white-paper or a short-term business plan.

The power of the small ask

Make it easy for your target contact to say “yes” to you. People are more likely to get back to you when they don’t feel pressured into making any promises. As such, keep your ask small.

Instead of asking your target contact for a job, ask if you could buy him a cup of coffee so that you could pick his brains about the company.

Hopefully, the coffee meeting will eventually lead to a job. But by asking to meet for coffee, you’re putting the recipient at ease, improving your chances of hearing back.

Short and sweet

No one wants to read someone else’s entire life story. Keep your email short and concise.

It’s quite likely that the recipient will read your message on a phone or a tablet. As such, your email shouldn’t be more than five sentences long. The receiver should be able to read it in under a minute.

If you do go over five sentences, avoid huge chunks of text by limiting paragraphs to no more than a few sentences.

Longer paragraphs lead to skimming. It’s quite likely that the recipient will lose focus somewhere in the middle.

Show your gratitude

We’re almost at the end of our short guide on how to cold email for a job.

By this point, you’ve found your point of contact, crafted a killer subject line, and drafted your message. All that’s left is signing off.

Simple, right?

As it turns out, the way that you close an email could influence whether or not you hear back from the recipient.

According to Boomerang, it’s best to end an email with a thankful closing, such as:

  • Thanks in advance
  • Thank you
  • Thanks

Emails that end with an expression of gratitude tend to receive a higher response rate than those that don’t.

Time to sign off

Before you hit send, spend a couple of seconds crafting an email signature to show the target contact that you’re a real person.

In your signature, include personal information such as:

  • Your full name
  • Current job position
  • Phone number
  • A link to a personal website or blog if you have one
  • Links to some of your professional social media profiles

The key to success

Don’t feel discouraged if your cold email doesn’t elicit an immediate response.

We all lead busy lives, and it’s not uncommon for inboxes to get backed up. Besides, it’s quite likely that your email slipped through the cracks or that the person you reached out to didn’t have the time to respond.

If you don’t hear back within several weeks, it’s perfectly okay to send a follow-up email. Reply to your previous message so that the recipient sees both emails in the same thread.

Your persistence could very well convince the employer that your first message wasn’t part of a mass mailing to as many organizations as you could find and that you’re seriously interested in working for the company.

Don’t get too hung up if the person you emailed doesn’t respond even after a follow-up or two. Shift your focus to another company and repeat the process. You never know what opportunities await now that you know how to cold email for a job.

Tips and Tricks to Get You Ahead

Utilize the below tips and tricks to make your cold email shine.

It’s all about who you know

We mentioned that standing out in a busy inbox is very, very hard.

Most big companies receive approximately six times as many applications as they have employees.

As such, the bigger your network, the higher your chances of success. Spruce up your LinkedIn account and join conversations that interest you on Twitter.

Getting to know someone who knows someone at the company that you admire might be all that’s needed to get the ball rolling.

Track your success

Every time you send a cold email, you should be tracking its progress.

Keep an eye on:

  • The open rate
  • The click-through rate

Open rates are a good indication of how engaged the recipient is. For example, a recipient who opens your email several times is likely interested in what you have to say.

Knowing what the open rate is can boost your confidence when you go to write that follow-up email. In addition, open rates can help you understand whether or not your subject line is compelling enough.

Your email might have been opened, but did the recipient also click on the link that you included within it? You’ll only know the answer if you use Google URL Shortener or Bit.ly. to track your links.

Once again, by knowing what the click-through rate is, you can experiment with the way that you incorporate links within the text.

What do Tuesdays have to do with it?

Did you know that the day of the week you send your email on could potentially influence whether or not you get a response?

According to CoSchedule, Tuesday is by far the best day to send an email. But the time of the day is important too.

Late-morning send times are generally the most popular. Nonetheless, the best time to send an email is around 10 a.m.

Two o’clock in the afternoon is also a good time, as most people have just returned from lunch and are not quite ready to get back to work.

Be prepared to wait

Finally, always be flexible when asking for a favor. Don’t expect the target contact to meet you tomorrow or even this week.

Instead, ask them if they’d be free to talk to you sometime in the next month or so.

You might be offering to buy the recipient a cup of coffee or a meal. But it’s always a good idea to inquire if there’s a better way for them to communicate with you.

How to Cold Email for a Job: Answered!

Now that you know how to cold email for a job, you’re no longer constricted by job ads. You can go for any position that you want. All you have to do is reach out to companies you admire.

While sending a cold email can be intimidating, remember that you have nothing to lose.

At worst, you won’t hear back. But at best, you’ll land the job of your dreams.

What are your thoughts on cold emailing potential employers? Have you ever tried it? Do you feel more confident in doing so now that you’ve read this guide on how to cold email for a job? Let us know in the comments down below!


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Laura Martisiute

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