Just like cold calls, sending out cold emails can be incredibly awkward. Here you are asking a complete stranger for help or advise, hoping they'll respond out of camaraderie. Is it a waste of time? What's the likelihood anyone will take a moment out of their busy week to doll out tips or extend a helping hand?
If that's the thought process you have while debating on a potential contact, then you're missing out big time! While sending out emails to people you've never met might feel out of the blue, it definitely doesn't have to be awkward — or unsuccessful. We live in a digital age, and while it's great to get out there and network and pass out business cards, you can just as easily meet someone online as you can over bagels and coffee. And the beauty is that we all know it.
While it's true sending out cold emails is a numbers game and some will certainly get ignored, there are steps you can take that lower that likelihood. Below are 11 great tips on how to write a cold email without getting rejected — look it over and see if you've made any easy-to-fix mistakes!
1. Find A Common Connection
To avoid making it seem like your recipient is one of many in an afternoon of cold email blasting, prove that you've done your research and that the two of you actually have something in common. Where did they go to school? What have they written about? Where do their interests or passions lie? While it might sound like it'll take a lot of sleuthing, it's actually pretty easy to come across these points.
Angelina Darrisaw, an international business and career coach, tells Bustle in an email, "Use Facebook, LinkedIn, Google, Twitter, Levo League, etc. Be creative and find a way to establish a personal connection (within reason). Maybe you didn't attend the same school, but went to school in the same state. Use that! 'I noticed you went to Duke! I went to to Davidson. How did you like living in Raleigh? I am hoping you can help a fellow Southerner with the following situation...' The more you can establish a connection, the more likely you are to stand out." Not only will this move show that you did your research, but that you considered them before you emailed. Meaning they're not just one of many on your list, which will increase your likelihood of a response.
2. Skip The "How Are You?"
While you shouldn't ramble into a request like you're a freight train, beginning with "how are you?" might underline just how cold your request actually is. Business writer Erica Dhawan from entrepreneur site YFS Magazine suggested, "Everyone does it and it doesn’t mean anything, particularly if you’re sending a cold email. Nine times out of ten, the end of your email contains a specific request, and you never actually had an interest in the recipient’s well-being." Instead, start off with a line explaining how impressed you are with them or how excited you feel over their company.
2. Make Sure Your Question Is Obvious
Make sure that your question is obvious and underlined — don't ramble on in an effort to make the ask more "soft." Darrisaw suggests, "A cold email without a question leaves the reader confused. Why are you reaching out? Settle on one key question and make it easy for the recipient to respond." The more narrowed down your focus, the easier it is for your receiver to respond!
3. Keep Your Request Small
Think about it: Is it easier to respond to a request for coffee, or to a request for a job? If you're hoping for something big from your recipient, ease into the conversation with a downgraded appeal. Career writer Leslie Moser for career-development site The Muse offered, "It’s much easier for people to respond if they don’t feel like they are making any big promises by replying. So, I recommend keeping your ask as small as possible." Baby steps.
4. Make Sure You Offer Something
Rather than just hoping to get, get, get, make sure you show them you offer something in return. Don't just include a bio about yourself — point out clearly what you have to offer. Dhawan explained, "For example, if you’re looking for a mentor, your education might be relevant if you have alumni connections. If you are forming a relationship with a potential client, your latest business accomplishments are far more relevant." That only sweetens the incentive to answer.
5. Reference What You Read About Them In The News
This goes directly back to the point of establishing a common connection with your recipient. But rather than just mentioning their field or credentials, take it a step further and link how you connect with them from something you read about them in the news.
Vicki Salemi, Career Expert for Monster, offers to Bustle in an email, "You should also reference recent articles about the company in the news and how those initiatives are specifically relevant to your skill set – go the extra mile to show that you're truly interested in the job or person's expertise, and would be an asset to the company’s endeavors." By mentioning something written about them, you show that — while it's a cold email — you're well familiarized with them and their company and are invested in a response back. By also linking their initiatives to your own skill set, you're offering them something in return, increasing your chances of getting an answer.
6. Be Short And Sweet
If the person doesn't know you and has no invested interest in you, a lengthy, text-heavy email can easily be sent straight into the trash. Keep their interest by making your message short and sweet and straight to the point.
Darrisaw recommends, "An email from a stranger that is lengthy and hard to get through is likely to be deleted and sent to spam. Use short paragraphs and make each sentence count. Good information to include is: who you are (on a very basic level, not a long bio), why you chose this specific recipient (Include common interests here) to reach out to and what specifically you need." You can even break your request up into actual bullet points, so as to attract your reader's eye if they happen to skim rather than read.
7. Clearly State An Action Step
Don't leave the email open-ended, where you sign off with a "balls in your court" type of conclusion. If you want to ensure a future contact, give them an action step in the end. For example, Salemi suggests, "state that you're hoping to have five minutes for a phone interview," whether that means to help the company efficiently make their next hire (you!) or because you'd like to create a business partnership or mentorship. If you're not ready for a full-blown phone call, give them a deadline to reply to the email, stating something like, "I'd love a response by EOD Friday, if possible."
It gets the person receiving the email moving.
9. Shake Off The Feeling Of Awkwardness
Whether you're reaching out for a job or for advise, shake off any feelings of trepidation by keeping in mind you're not the first or last person to reach out to this person for help. If it's a job you're looking for, chances are plenty of candidates are taking this impressive, self-starter step, and if it's a mentorship you're after, it's only to be expected others have flattered them with requests for advise.
Salemi helpfully points out, "Try not to think of this as an awkward reach — if you do, then you're doomed before you begin. Assume that other candidates are doing the same thing (because they are) and recruiters expect to hear from you in this forward, humblebrag sort of way." Go for it, and stay confident.
10. Avoid Using Too Many Links And Photos
While you might think it's helpful to add a plethora of information about you in the body of the email, some email servers could mark you as spam if you have too much going on in your message. If you get sent to the spam folder, then you know you won't get a response! Darrisaw advises, "Some email servers filter out emails from addresses they don't recognize, but particularly when they have attachments or too many links. Choose your links wisely!" Include only the most important websites and/or photos, keeping the message uncluttered and not too taxing.
11. It's OK To Follow Up
When you have a busy week and a full inbox, that one random request from someone on the outside is easily shoved to the back burner. Because of that, it's completely fine for you to follow up! Moser explained, "If a full week has gone by with no response, it’s perfectly acceptable to send a quick follow-up email and ask if the person is still interested in getting together."
So go ahead — reach out to these contacts without a lick of trepidation — you never know where a cold email can lead you!