Cold emailing strangers can be uncomfortable and feel invasive, but it is an incredibly powerful tool. Whether you are job searching, networking or simply seeking advice, cold emailing is must know skill. In this post, I share eight tips to help you write a cold email that will get opened.
After graduating from college, my first job was working as a paralegal at a major New York law firm. I quickly realized I wanted to transition out of law. I found myself most passionate about the pro bono matters I was involved in and curious about how the businesses we worked with could maximize value for society. It was 2013 and New York’s tech scene was emerging as a competitor to Silicon Valley’s. My goal was to transition from my role as a paralegal into a sales or marketing role at startup, in particular, one with a social mission. Early on, I was advised I was being too ambitious. I was told my best option was to accept another paralegal role for a corporate client and, in time, internally transfer to another division within that company.
Thanks, but no thanks. I was determined to do everything I could to go after the jobs I wanted. My first step was to start networking. I created an excel spreadsheet with my target companies. Then, I used LinkedIn to search for a connection (through friends or Cornell) at each company. Finally, I began to cold email each contact. My goal was to learn about their role and obtain advice on how I could get my foot in the door. This strategy ultimately led to several interviews and a job referral for the company I ended up working at next. I encourage you to believe in yourself and to leverage cold emailing to go after the job you want.
Eight Tips to Write Your Best Cold Email
1. Conduct Preliminary Research
Don’t make assumptions about the person you want to contact. Take time to research who the person is, what they do and where they are located before you send them a cold email. LinkedIn and company team pages are a great tool for this.
2. Keep it Brief
Your end goal is to make a strong first impression that will spark someone’s interest in you. The shorter and more direct your email is, the more likely that person is to digest your message and respond.
3. Use a Precise Subject Line
Subject lines can be the trickiest part. You want your email to stick out in someone’s inbox so when they are scanning through a sea of emails, they open yours. Keep the subject line precise. If you have a personal referral, make who referred you clear in the subject line. Here are some examples of the best cold email subject lines that have worked for me: “Referred to You by (Name) at (Company)”, “(Name) Suggested I Contact You About (X)”, “Current (School) Student Seeking Career Advice” (with a connection) or “Aspiring (Industry) Professional- Would Love to Quickly Chat”, “Interest in Learning About Your Experience at (Firm)” and “(Industry) Professional Seeking Advice” (without a connection).
4. Personalize Your Message
Too often people get comfortable with recycling the same template. When you can, utilize a common interest to personalize your message. Personalization shows the reader that you are thoughtful and have dedicated time to understand what they do. Personalization will create an authentic connection so the reader feels more compelled to respond.
5. Make a Direct Ask
Be upfront about your intentions. The reader will be more likely to respond if they understand what you want to discuss and how much of their time you want.
6. Pick The Right Time of Day
Be mindful of the time and day of week you decide to send your email. Emails sent over the weekend or at odd hours may get lost in someone’s inbox.
7. Spell Check
Someone is more likely to delete your email if you get the spelling of their name or firm wrong. Before you push send, read through the email a second time to check for basic spelling and punctuation errors.
8. Follow Up
Don’t be discouraged if your contact does not respond to your first email. People are busy. An email from a stranger is usually not top priority and your contact may simply forget to respond. Wait two weeks and then send a thoughtful follow-up. If you send a follow-up, include your original email in the reply so your contact can place your message in the right context.
Good luck writing and sending your next cold email! ProTip (something we hear countless times in business school) – avoid writing anything you wouldn’t want to see on the cover of the Wall Street Journal.
Feel free to reach out to me via the contact section or comment below if you have any questions.