A cold email is a powerful tool for connecting with potential employers. If done right, cold emailing can be the ticket to landing your next role when done right.
In this article, we explain the meaning of cold emails and discuss the importance of cold emailing. Then we’ll provide actionable tips for crafting better cold emails to improve your chances of landing a new job.
What is Cold Emailing?
Cold emailing refers to emailing someone you've never contacted before. Think of cold emails as “cold calls”, where you call strangers and persuade them to take a particular action. The difference here is that cold emails are less invasive and more effective.
Marketers have used cold emails to build connections with prospective customers for years. But cold emailing is more than a lead gen tool—a well-written cold pitch can be the ticket to your next job.
Why is Cold Emailing Important?
1. Cold emails are effective
Your cold email has better chances of getting read—and replied to—than, say, a LinkedIn message. People check email up to 15 times daily and spend around five hours in their inboxes every day. Sending cold emails is sending messages to where people will read them.
2. Cold emails improve job prospects
Cold emailing can target the individual(s) responsible for hiring. That's better than submitting applications to a generic company email. Nail the pitch, and you double the chances of getting hired for the role.
3. Cold emailing is scalable
Cold emailing is a scalable outreach system. Newer tools make finding emails easier and creating messages faster with templates. During my internship search, I used Apollo.io, an outreach service for cold emailing, to send dozens of cold emails to C-suite employees at large PR/marketing firms.
4. Cold emails require minimal effort
Few outreach techniques have better ROI than cold emailing. Find a prospect's email, craft a targeted message, and wait for the magic to happen. People have secured jobs all by sending a cold email to prospective employers. I got an internship at my current agency after cold-emailing not one but two executives about my application.
How To Send Effective Cold Emails
Sending a cold pitch to a person you've never interacted with before is difficult. You have no history with this person, so they have little reason to read your message. The average open rate for cold emails is around 20%—and that number can still drop depending on other factors.
But cold emailing can be an excellent addition to your job-hunting toolbox if you use it well. Here are some tips for sending cold emails that get more opens and replies:
1. Apply the KISS principle
While teaching effective news writing, a lecturer often told us to "Keep It Short and Simple." According to him, keeping things brief in news stories made them easier to read without losing interest.
This principle applies to cold emails as well. No one wants to read long emails, not when they have other high-priority messages in their inboxes. Per statistics, a cold email should be around 150-200 words. People will find it easy to read and reply to your cold email when it's short and easy to consume.
When I started with cold emails, I made the rookie mistake of typing long messages. I talked about my career goals, qualifications, and previous experience, hoping to impress execs.
That would have worked if I sent a cover letter via mail to someone who requested it. I was sending unsolicited emails to busy people, so my messages needed to be short and direct.
2. Email the right person
Cold emailing thrives on personalisation. When you don’t target the right people, the success rates of your cold emails drops.
So—how do you know who to email?
Ideally, you want to email the person responsible for hiring people at a company. That narrows your list to the Chief Recruitment Officer, Head of Human Resources, or “Head of People”.
If you can't find the emails for recruiters, send your email to a top-level employee. At a startup, that may be the Chief Technology Officer, Senior Engineer, or anyone who seems high on the company hierarchy. Even if they can't decide to hire you, they'd likely send your request to the person in charge.
Don't send emails to regular employees—they rarely have the authority to consider potential employees. In addition, they may be unwilling to speak with the HR unit on your behalf.
3. Create a strong pitch
You want to leave a powerful impression when reaching out to anyone via email. Remember that you're trying to convince recruiters you're the best candidate. Craft a solid pitch that sells your strengths and answers the why-should-we-hire-you question in a paragraph or less.
Highlight your experience, interests, and accomplishments in the email. Link to a portfolio (if you have one) to show off your best work.
4. Find the perfect timing
There's still some debate on the best time to send cold emails. Despite the mass of conflicting information on the topic, there are some basic rules to follow when sending emails:
a. Send emails on weekdays
Avoid sending cold emails to recruiters or company officials on weekends. With work-life balance becoming a hot topic, many have a no-emails-on-weekends policy.
Many studies consider Tuesday through Thursday the best time for sending cold emails. Professionals receive many emails on Monday, so your message may receive low priority. And too many employees are preparing for Happy Hour on Fridays to pay attention to your email.
b. Send emails during business hours
Emailing outside of work hours is a huge turnoff for most people. Some suggest sending emails between 11 AM—just before lunch break—and 3 PM is ideal. You'll still need to experiment to know what timing works for you.
Emailing someone in a different timezone? Check the time before you hit "Send."
Pro tip: Write cold emails and schedule them to deliver later. Apollo.io has a "Schedule" feature that allows you to do that.
5. Be specific
My lecturer often counsels against "burying the lead" in news writing class. The lead summarises the news for readers and keeps them interested in reading the story.
The same applies to writing cold emails. Clarify the goal of your email—whether that's a job application or internship request.
Ditch the "I hope this email finds you well?" and other perfunctory greetings. These greetings may come across as superficial to some people. Plus, they waste valuable real estate in your cold email.
There's a caveat, though. Sometimes you need to establish a connection before asking for anything. That's where personalisation comes into the picture. Mention mutual contacts, praise their work, recollect an event both of you attended.
Any of these details can turn you from a stranger into an acquaintance. And people are more likely to help you when they know you.
6. Include a call-to-action
According to Campaign Monitor, ending your emails with a strong call-to-action can increase effectiveness. What CTA you use depends on your email. I ended my emails with, “I'd love to discuss with you about interning at X company” when cold-emailing PR execs for an internship.
7. Craft a good subject line
My take on subject lines is that they are important for two reasons
A. They pique the interest of the recipient.
B. They tell others what your email is about, so they can decide if they want to read it now or later. It's good to be upfront about why you're emailing so you don't waste anybody's time.
Most of my cold email subject lines used the [Name] + [Role] + [application] formula. One of my subject lines read "Emmanuel Awosika — Copywriting Intern Application."
There are many resources on crafting the best email subject lines. Read them and find what works for you.
8. Use an email tracker
Email trackers have gotten a bad rap over the years, but they have benefits. Tracking email open rates was easy for me since Apollo.io offered a built-in email tracker.
I emailed a top executive at my current company, but got no response. Knowing the first email had been read, I emailed another exec at the agency, who sent my request to HR. Without an email tracker, I'd have waited weeks for a reply that’d never come.
Email trackers also measure the effectiveness of your emails. With Apollo.io, I tracked email the open rates and reply rates for my internship application emails. I also monitored the bounce rate, i.e., emails that never got delivered.
How Do I Find Emails?
The market has seen a flurry of new outreach tools getting popular. That includes my favourite, Apollo.io, and rivals like RocketReach and Hunter.io. These tools can help you find the email addresses of recruiters and leading executives.
The Apollo.io Chrome extension pulls verified email addresses from company websites and LinkedIn pages. You can add these contacts to lists and start your cold emailing prospects.
Cold email can increase your odds of landing your dream role—but only if you use them well. Personalise your message, keep it short, and create an irresistible pitch. Use an email tool to find email addresses, schedule deliveries, and track important metrics.
Don't feel bad if your emails go unread. Like anything, cold emailing is a numbers game. I sent more than a dozen cold emails before getting an interview. Remain consistent and keep sending those messages.