Cold email is much more than just a tool for salespeople.You can use it to meet people you admire, raise money for a charity, or even turn a message into a ticket for an exclusive party.
You can also get a new job and even change your career path. While you shouldn’t expect a response that immediately includes an interview slot, a well-written cold email sent to the right person can give you a huge advantage over those still sending resumes through job boards. Why? Because, having done your research and selected the most relevant contact, you’re not one faceless application among hundreds of others going to human resources.
Of course, your email has to be good enough to stand out in a crowded inbox. In fact, many of the rules that apply to sales emails are just as relevant when it comes to looking for work. With that in mind, here are three things to remember and do when using cold email to find a new job or career.
1. Find the right person to contact.
A thoughtful message that paints you in your best light is useless if it goes to the wrong person. For example, emailing the Operations Manager will not help if you're after a job in marketing. It sounds obvious, but there are tons of people out there who will blast an email to multiple contacts at one company, thinking the more emails they send, the greater their chances of success. Instead, pick the most relevant person at the company and concentrate on writing an email they'll find enticing.
To do that, conduct thorough research. Gather essential details (title, size of company, job description) on LinkedIn or the company's website. Check to see if past colleagues or classmates have ever done work with this company; they might be able to introduce you. Look for recent news, awards, or published works from your contact. Referencing such things is often an effective way to open the email.
Thorough research has another advantage, too: it teaches you more about the company's business. When it comes time for the interview and someone asks you to articulate what you think the company does, you won't have to think hard to find an answer. Same goes for those making a full-on career shift—you'll learn way more about your new industry researching companies and contacts than you will reading about them on some job board.
2. Keep it short, simple, and small.
Cold emails are not cover letters. You may be asked to eventually submit a cover-letter-like document, but for this initial introduction, follow the general rule of cold email and keep it short: three to five sentences, max. Unlike a human resources department, your contact will not necessarily be expecting an email about potential employment. So if your message is a wall of text outlining your many skills or how you grew that one website's traffic to over 2 million visitors per month, the recipient's eyes will glaze over, so to speak.
The easiest way to make sure that doesn't happen is to keep your ask small. Don't just say, "I'm interested in any job openings you have in marketing. When can we discuss this?" Don't even say you'd like to meet up to talk about potential employment. Instead, ask to meet up for coffee so you can learn more about the company and what it does.
Similarly, if you see a problem you're able to fix, explain how you can help. A friend of mine got his current job when one of his favorite news sites went down. He sent a cold email to the Information Technology Manager to say he knew how to retrieve the site and get it back up; the company offered him a job about a week later.
For those changing careers, the ask is simple: just say you're considering a change to that person's industry and would love to hear their take on it.
3. Don't hesitate to send a follow-up if you don't hear back.
There's nothing wrong with sending a follow-up email if your contact has not yet responded. While I don't recommend a full eight-touch campaign, some gentle persistence can work in your favor. Maybe the contact was on a deadline when you sent the first email, and meant to respond but never did. Perhaps they're testing you by not responding, to see if you have the ambition and commitment to keep asking. Along the same lines, someone may be waiting for a follow-up to make sure your first message wasn't just a mass mailing to as many companies as you could find.
Don't spend too much energy wondering why the person has yet to respond, though. If, after a follow-up or two, there's still no response, move on. Part of persistence in finding a new job is knowing when to shift your focus to another potential employer—one who may have an even more promising opportunity waiting for someone like you.
What email tricks do you have when it comes to searching for and finding new employment? I'd love to hear about them in the comments.
For more advice on cold email, sales and marketing, check out the Salesfolk Blog. You can also follow me on Twitter or connect with me on LinkedIn to ask me questions.
Heather R. Morgan is an economist and the founder of Salesfolk, which has helped over 500 companies revitalize their sales prospecting strategies. Having written 10,000-plus cold emails in the past decade, Morgan has developed a new process for crafting mass email templates that still feel personal, combining copywriting best practices and game theory. Her cold emails see at least three times more responses than the industry average. The author is a Forbes contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.