Cold Emailing To Get a Job: Best Practices

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated March 15, 2021 | Published January 22, 2021

Updated March 15, 2021

Published January 22, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A cold email is a message that you send to someone with whom you've never interacted in the hopes of forming a professional connection. You can use cold emails to learn about job opportunities and ask to be considered for open positions. In this article, we share some of the top strategies for writing an effective cold email to ask for a job.

Related: Writing a Cold Email: Guide and Examples

12 tips for how to cold email for a job

There are many reasons you might want to send a cold email and there is indeed some simple etiquette that would be good to know during the process. Here are some tips to consider when planning out your cold emails to look for work:

1. Thoroughly research the company

One of the keys to an effective cold email asking for a job is to identify why you're interested in a specific company. Employers look for dedicated employees who see their employment as more than a paycheck and are actually invested in the company's mission. Researching the company ahead of time can inspire you for explaining why you'd be an especially good fit for a company or why you're interested in working with them in particular.

You can begin your research by browsing the company's website and reading about its mission statement. Identify themes that you connect with and make note of them so you can reference your shared goals in the email. Some companies will have additional information available, like information about key projects, awards and ways the business contributed to the industry. If the website doesn't have many details about the company, read job review boards to learn about what previous employees liked about the business or search for news articles about the company's accomplishments.

2. Choose a specific department or team

After you understand the general information about a business, hone in on the particular department you want to work for. Asking for any type of job as long as you can work for the specific company can make it more difficult for the email recipient to see how your unique skills and experiences could align with their business goals. Inquiring about open roles and opportunities in a certain department shows that you understand your own career goals and have ambition in an essential area of their business.

This not only ensures you have the best chance at getting the type of job you want, it can also help you stand out to team leads who influence hiring decisions. Sending a cold email to the general human resources email account of your target business could result in your email getting lost or disregarded among high volumes of emails from other applicants. Reaching out to department leaders can make your email more visible and directly connect you with insights about their operational needs.

3. Look for the correct contact information

To get the most impact out of your email, select a representative to email and find their correct contact information. This can be a department head, the person who posted job openings on a career board or a project manager. Browse professional networking websites to learn about your target employer's internal structure, looking at the activity of key employees to help gauge who makes hiring decisions.

There are a few methods you can try to find the right name and email address for the role you want to reach out to. Some businesses have this information readily accessible in a staff directory webpage, while others may leave contact details on department-specific pages. If you're in college, your university's career placement office may be able to connect you with information about university partners in that department.

4. Use a compelling subject line

For your cold email asking for a job to have an impact, the recipient first needs to open and read it. Department heads, recruiters and other company leaders who hire employees usually have high volumes of emails to sort through each day. When scanning through their inbox of unread emails, they'll look at the subject line to determine which ones to open and treat as a priority.

Write a subject line that will pique the curiosity of the recipient. Referencing how they could benefit from talking to you, complimenting them or referencing their work are all good strategies to use when writing an interesting subject line. Keep the subject line brief and direct to immediately capture their interest while compelling them to open the email and learn more. Here are a few examples of interesting subject lines that could improve your email's visibility in the recipient's inbox:

  • Our shared passion for public health accessibility

  • Operations coordinator interested in improving team output

  • Software programming help for your team's expansion

  • Impressed with your recent community impact award

  • What are the next steps for your department?

5. Reflect the company culture in your tone

As you write your email, demonstrate how well you would fit in with their team by embodying the company culture in your writing style. If an employer has a more laid-back and collaborative workplace, your email should have a more casual and fun tone than one targeted at a business with a formal image. While your email should still be professional, you can make small adjustments to make yourself more approachable based on the company's image. Read through their websites, publication and employee biographies to get a sense of how employees might communicate internally.

Adjusting your writing style and voice can add extra value to your email. Use the content to explain your value by showing that you'd make a great addition to the culture and dynamic in the way you write. Your target recipient may be more receptive to your inquiry about jobs on their team if they feel that you would easily integrate into the team's communication style and become a long-term asset at their company.

6. Reference mutual connections

One of the ways you can validate your experience and generate interest in your qualifications is to point out a shared connection in your professional networks. If you know someone at the company, have a shared contact on a professional networking site, are members of the same professional society or have other connections, you can use this as a starting point to explain your interest in working for the company.

This not only shows that you have something in common and can form a personal connection that could lead to a job, but it also demonstrates that you're serious about pursuing a career in their field. Having connections in common that can vouch for your expertise helps you stand out among other interested applicants and humanizes your interactions. They can also give you a conversation topic to develop a rapport based on shared experiences that strengthens your professional connections.

7. Identify yourself as an asset

Before asking about job openings, introduce yourself and explain the value that you could bring to their organization. Discuss why you'd be the ideal person to join their team without expressly asking for a job so they can start to get invested in you as a candidate before making a decision. Explain your professional identity, how you support your employer's mission and how your personal values align with their company as a way to introduce yourself in an impactful manner. Here is one example of how you could show a potential employer that you're an asset to their company at the start of a cold email:

Example: "As an experienced volunteer manager who specializes in developing dedicated, authentic connections with community members, I've been looking for opportunities to apply my skills to a cause I'm passionate about."

8. Share a key accomplishment

Select one of your proudest accomplishments related to the type of work you're looking for and highlight it in your email. If you have a piece in your portfolio that you're particularly proud of, include it as an attachment or provide a link to your website that shows examples of your work. Mentioning a key accomplishment or sharing details about your past work shows the recipient that you're a serious candidate who can back up their claims with real examples of how they could contribute to the new team.

When discussing your professional success, be brief and focus on how your contributions made an impact on your field or employers. This shows that considering you as a new employee will have mutual benefit for both your career and your employer, making the ideal conditions for a long-term team member.

9. Focus on a small interaction

Once you've established your value to the employer and shared information about who you are and what you can do, then transition to inquiring about jobs by asking for a small favor like a coffee meeting or a phone call. Asking for a small interaction, such as a fifteen-minute video call to discuss job paths at their company, is much less intimidating than asking for a job outright. This indicates that you're gathering information about potential career opportunities without seeming pushy or demanding.

Asking for an opportunity to discuss their team instead of simply asking if any positions are open can also give you an initial connection to a company regardless of their hiring status. Your dream employer may not have any open roles on their team, so asking for a job could result in a direct rejection.

Suggesting a meeting to discuss the team's strategy for the future introduces you to their professional network, which could set you up for opportunities as they arise. A hiring manager may also be impressed enough by your first meeting to make opportunities for you or consider expanding their team early.

10. Include a clear call to action

When proposing a meeting or asking about job opportunities, use a clear call to action that encourages a response. A call to action is a question or imperative statement that tells someone what they should do. In this case, your call to action should explain the next steps the email recipient should take if they're interested in communicating with you about possible job opportunities or their general experience with a company.

For example, "I want to learn about job opportunities" shares your ideal outcome but doesn't show how the email recipient could help. "Are you available to talk on the phone for ten minutes to discuss career paths in our field?" or "Please email or call to share your guidance on pursuing a career at your company if you're interested in my qualifications" both provide clear steps for what the email recipient should do next.

11. Focus on readability

When writing your email, make sure that the reader can easily scan the sentences and paragraphs to get the gist of the message quickly. Because the recipient is already taking a chance by opening an email from an unknown address, seeing large blocks of text that are hard to read could cause them to immediately click away. Make your message less intimidating by breaking it up into multiple paragraphs, putting spaces between each one to make it easier to scan. Keep your message short to make it easier for others to respond and entice them to learn more about you.

Reread your email several times before sending, making adjustments to vocabulary, structure and flow until you can easily read the email. Remove repetitive phrases or wordy jargon to leave a great impression that displays your professional communication skills.

12. Send a gentle follow-up

If you don't get a response a week after sending the initial cold email, try following up. Reply to the same email thread that you initially sent with a polite message reminding the recipient of your interest in working at their company. Start by acknowledging that they're likely very busy and deal with many emails each day, so you wanted to send another message to bring the email to the top of their inbox. Briefly restate your goal and close the email by asking for them to consider you for future positions if they aren't available to discuss current opportunities.

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