Stuck in your job search? What if you could get your foot in the door without even filling out an application? Ashley Dolar shows you how to write a cold email that could land you your dream job.

By: Ashley Dolar | Contributor for Let’s Eat, Grandma

Are you looking for your first full-time job? Or thinking of changing your career? In a tight job market, it’s usually all about knowing the right person.

It’s hard to get your foot in the door if you lack the right kind of professional relationship. Learning how to write a cold email just might be your ticket out of job board limbo.

Going In Cold: why you should learn how to write a cold email

Be prepared. Going in cold is not for the faint of heart. You need to write an email to a complete stranger who might someday connect you with your dream job. That’s a lot of pressure!

Don’t let that psych you out, though – think of a cold email as a conversation, relationship building, or a soft pitch.

That’s what I did when I moved to a new area a few years ago. I had a great resume and references ready to sing my praises, but zero contacts. So I worked up some courage and sent some cold emails to a few potential employers–just to introduce myself and ask a few questions.

Most people ignored me, but one person responded. One was the perfect number – he happened to have an opening. I had an interview two days later and a job offer within a week.

I admit that cold emailing is part luck. Still, you can’t underestimate the power of thoughtful research and a carefully worded paragraph. Are you ready to accelerate your job hunt?

Read on for tips and tricks to get your cold email and skill set noticed.

Do Your Homework

A woman taking notes while doing research from two open laptop screens, including one that displays the words "Company's Growth." Doing research like this is the first step in learning how to write a cold email.
Research is the first, and most crucial, step towards making sure your cold email gets read.

If you want an actual person to read your cold email, you must do your homework. For real. This is the intel gathering phase of the process, which is just as important as the actual writing.

First, learn about the company’s culture, values, and latest achievements. Check its websites and social media accounts for information. Do a Google search to see if there’s been anything in the news about the industry.

Then, choose the right person to be on the receiving end of your email–like the director of a department or even the CEO. You may have to dig through the website, but you can find their email address somewhere. That person has insight to share and, better yet, likely makes hiring decisions.

Find out if that person has won awards or published an article. These are great talking points and can set the stage for a deeper relationship.

The more you learn about the company and your targeted recipient, the greater the potential for a return email. The goal is to know enough to be interesting, but not so much that you seem like a scam artist. It’s about balance, guys.

Be Concise and Complimentary

Now it’s time to write with confidence and intrigue. Not sure where to start? I suggest tackling the body of the email before worrying about anything else.

In my experience, a winning cold email includes five or six sentences max:

  1. A friendly introduction. You literally do not know this person, so approach it like a face-to-face meeting. This is a good place to include your name and current professional situation  (like your job title or “recent college graduate.”)
  2. A reason for writing. Why are you sending this email in the first place? Do you want to learn more about industry trends in which this person is considered a thought-leader? Do you want to say congratulations for earning a specific reward in the recent past? This is the spot to insert some of that earlier discussed research.
  3. A genuine compliment. How does this person inspire you? What do you admire about their work? Everyone loves to be recognized, and a good compliment has the power to get you on the road to a real relationship.
  4. A small call-to-action. Basically, ask the person a question so they have a reason to respond. You can start it with “I was wondering” and then fill in the blank. “I was wondering what you think of this particular industry trend.” “I was wondering what professional books you might recommend to get a jumpstart in this domain.” You get the idea.
  5. A gracious conclusion. Thank the person for their time. If they made it to the end of your email, you want to show your appreciation. You also want to gently compel them to reply.
A photo of a businesswoman shaking hands to introduce herself to another person. How to write a cold email!
A cold email reads like a great introduction!

Once you are satisfied with the body of your email, choose a catchy subject line, and insert a greeting that matches the tone of the company.

Finally, check your email signature for thorough and correct contact information.

Remember, this is neither a cover letter nor a job application. You might feel like you are leaving out all of the best stuff about you. Or you might feel pushy, like you are pestering someone who doesn’t have time. But, chances are this person is delighted to hear from you and,, hopefully, wants to hear more from you soon.

Follow Up

If you don’t hear back right away, don’t panic! Reach out again in a week or two — maybe that person was swamped that day and meant to get back to you.

The follow up email should be even shorter. Stick to two sentences to say that you are following up and to show that you are invested in their response. Be persistent, but not too persistent. Know when to cut your losses and move to another opportunity.

Want to make sure your cold emails – and all of your other job search documents – are in tip-top shape? Let’s Eat, Grandma is here to help. Visit our homepage to sign up for a FREE phone consultation with one of our business writing experts.

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About the Author

Ashley Dolar is a freelance writer, blogger, and certified language arts teacher. She believes in the power of proper grammar and original content. You can connect with Ashley on LinkedIn.

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