Crafting a cold email that not only gets opened, but also gets a positive response is perhaps one of the most critical business skills for success. Now more than ever, honing your networking skills will lead you to dream job opportunities. We’ve sent thousands of cold emails and have gotten responses from top investors, business, tech and creative leaders. Now, we’re sharing the best practices on how to cold email for a job, with proven templates, tools and advice.
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How to Cold Email for a Job: A Networking Skills Lesson
Why should you know how to cold email for a job? A majority of jobs are never listed online, yet that’s where job seekers go first when looking for a new role. In fact, an estimated 70 to 80% of open jobs are never posted publicly on online sites.
Even when a job is listed online, competition is fierce, with one role getting thousands of applicants. It’s hard to stand out among thousands of resumes, unless you have a connection.
Over 80% of open jobs are filled by a referral, through a personal or professional connection. The beauty of email is that you can connect with anyone, anywhere and build a relationship, if you know how to reach out properly.
1. Do your research.
The ability to identify the people that you need to connect with is one of the greatest, yet often overlooked, networking skills. It’s not about how many people you know–it’s about who you know.
Researchers James Fowler and Nicholas Christakis studied this effect, looking at obesity. They found that if you have a friend who’s obese, your chances of obesity increase by 45%. The chances of your other friends being obese increase by 20%, and their friends’ chances increase by 5%. That means there is an effect three degrees out, also known as the Three Degrees of Influence theory.
Christakis and Fowler also found that your network impacts your happiness, marriage, divorce rates, smoking, and voting habits. Your network holds a level of influence in almost every aspect of your life, including your career success.
Identify the people who you need in your community. Once you have a clear idea of the industry and roles that you want to pursue, you should:
- Regularly follow industry trends and publications. If you are interested in venture capital, for example, look at GoingVC, firm or investor publications like First Round Review, Fred Wilson’s AVC, or Andrew Chen’s newsletter, to name a few.
- Keep a Spreadsheet or CRM (customer relationship management system). Compile a list of industry thought leaders, people who you admire or are in positions that you hope to be in one day. Track if you’ve emailed or been in touch before, like a digital rolodex.
- Start small and work your way up. Do not email the CEO or even C-suite of a company first, especially a big company.
This will help you curate your community and reach out to the people who can have the greatest impact on your success.
2. Establish a point of reference.
It’s not uncommon for someone to receive thousands of emails a day from strangers. Why should they open your email, let alone respond? Although it is possible to get a response from a cold email, you have a much better chance if you highlight some unique or personal connection.
How did you come across this individual? What do you have in common? There are a few ways to do this:
- Get a warm introduction. Do you have a shared LinkedIn connection?
- Common backgrounds. Did you go to the same school? Grow up in the same area?
- Show your knowledge. Have you read their book, blog or other insight they’ve published?
By far, the most successful way to connect with someone is to have a warm introduction. It shows the person you want to connect with that someone in their network, ideally someone they know well and trust, is vouching for you.
The key for how to cold email for a job is to build up a relationship before you are in need of a new position. The more someone trusts you, the more likely they are to recommend you for a job or introduce you to others in their own network.
3. Be brief and to the point.
Whether asking for a warm intro or sending a cold email for a job, you need to get to the point. Establishing a point of reference makes a connection and grabs their attention. Don’t lose it with a long-winded, five- paragraph email.
State your interest in one or two sentences. You can link to your website, online portfolio, or resume if it’s appropriate. If they are actively hiring for an open position that you are qualified for, then it’s probably okay to attach your resume and/or portfolio.
4. Be clear about your ask.
No one should have to guess what you want. It may seem transactional to reach out to someone asking for something. That is why it’s important to use the Ben Franklin Effect.
In his autobiography, Benjamin Franklin reveals that he won over an adversary by asking to borrow a rare book. The adversary let him borrow it, and because he had invested that effort, it redefined their relationship. In time, Franklin and his former adversary formed a lifelong friendship.
Asking for a favor could actually make someone like you more, because they’ve invested into the relationship. However, there’s a catch. You have to start with a small favor (like lending someone a book).
You can build up to a bigger favor, like consideration for a role or a warm introduction. Remember that relationships are give and take. Offer value back to your community, so it’s an equal exchange.
State your ask clearly and if there’s a meeting involved, set the time commitment. If you are asking for an informational interview, be mindful of their schedule. A 15 minute chat is much easier than asking someone for 30 minutes to an hour of their time.
5. Show credibility.
Although a warm introduction is one of the best forms of credibility, it is not the only way to establish it.
In many cases, especially if you are reaching out to a brand or high profile business leader, you may not have a shared connection.
That’s why it is important to have proofs of credibility like:
- Link to recent press coverage. Have you been featured in reputable publications?
- Highlight social proof. Do you have a large newsletter list? Have you worked with notable clients or companies?
Showing credibility will increase your chances of getting their attention and make them less hesitant to reply to a cold email.
The Ultimate Guide to Business Networking
Get all the templates and tips you need to build meaningful business relationships and supercharge your business networking.
How to Cold Email for a Job: A Sample Template
It may take some practice to learn how to cold email for a job or anything else. Like any muscle, the more you use it, the stronger you will get at it.
To get you started, check out the below cold email template for job seeking.
TEMPLATE: New Job (Initial Outreach)
I found your profile on LinkedIn and was impressed by how you transitioned from [Industry 1] to [Industry 2].
I am currently an analyst at [Company] and I [An accomplishment of yours].
I am planning to transition into a more creative industry like you did. I was wondering if you have 15 minutes sometime over the next few weeks to connect?
Would love to hear any insights or perspectives you might have!
Starting a conversation with a stranger can be awkward and intimidating, but it’s one of the most valuable networking skills to grow your career. It is so important to know how to cold email for a job, but cold email in general will be a skill that you’ll find useful throughout your career.