Check out our guide to learn how to write a cold email for job applications, including a template you can personalize.
Updated in 2023
A lot of people apply for jobs online and then just sit back & wait. However, if you do this, you will mostly hear crickets. Unfortunately, there is just too much competition for recruiters to be able to go through all of the applications with a fine tooth comb, especially if you are applying to big tech companies like Facebook and Google.
So, how can you get your application to rise above the competition? At Pathrise, we have helped 900+ people land great jobs in tech and we know that sending compelling and concise cold emails can triple your application response rate.
But, sending a cold email might sometimes feel like emailing into a black hole. Even if you think you’ve crafted the best, most compelling email and you know that the job is perfect for you, that cold email might not be read.
So, what is the secret to getting your email opened? Review our guide with information on how to write a cold email for job applications, so you can be successful, too.
1. Find the right person
The first step is probably the most important one because you need to make sure that the email you will send is going to end up in the right inbox. Sometimes it is best to email the recruiter, but you might also do well if you email the hiring manager. Recruiters get a lot of cold emails, so they might be less likely to open yours (unless it’s amazing, which it will be). The hiring managers have a better chance of opening your email and responding to it. Or they might end up passing it along to the recruiter, which works as well! If it is forwarded from someone on their team, they will probably open it.
If the company is small enough, they might have a team page on their website. You might be able to determine who the hiring manager is based on their bios or roles. If there is not a team page, search on LinkedIn for the role within the company and find some members of the team. Try to decide the hiring manager from their experience and what they do at the company.
2. Get their email address
There are tools that you can use to find people’s email addresses, like Clearbit, which is a free Chrome extension that allows you to search for people and/or companies right from your inbox.
Another tool that can be helpful for finding email addresses is LeadFinder. Or, you can use LinkedIn to find people’s first & last names and then guess their email addresses using these likely combinations:
You can then test your guesses in email address verification services like Hunter and Email Checker. These services scrape the Internet to make sure that the email address you have guessed is valid so you know you are going to reach a real person. Read more about how to find a hiring manager’s email address on our blog. We have also created guides with email addresses for Facebook recruiters, Google recruiters, and many more company recruiters, if you want to skip the guesswork.
3. Craft the perfect subject line
Your email’s subject line is the hook that will get the receiver to open it. It needs to be perfect! In 2014, Fast Company did a study where they sent 1,000 cold emails to see if they could discover what contributes to making a great cold email. While their experiment was not that successful (only 12 replies), they did come up with some good thoughts on cold email subject lines.
As you can imagine, the goal of the subject line is to pique curiosity. We always recommend that you cold email someone that has a connection to you. Some examples: same hometown, same university, or shared hobbies. Make mention of this connection in your subject line so the person is more likely to open it. You can also include their name in the subject line to catch their attention, though sometimes this might feel a little disingenuine. For example:
- Sarah, fellow Northwestern alum reaching out
- Mutual admiration for dogs & good code
- John, New Yorker passionate about Google software engineering opening
It’s also important to avoid subject lines that are vague (ex: “An inquiry”), boring (ex: “Regarding my Airbnb app”), and too long (ex: “M.S ASU student with 2 years of dev experience interested in Data Scientist role at Twitch”).
4. Nail your cold email for job applications
Cold emails should be concise, compelling, personalized, friendly, and accurate. If you’ve gotten the recipient to open the email in the first place, lay it out quickly. That means you should start with a shortened elevator pitch.
Here are a few examples of good ways to start your emails.
The first is from someone who has seen and already applied to a specific position (which is better) and the other two are from someone who is interested in working at a specific company, but did not see positions that would fit for them at the moment.
- I recently applied for the [position] I saw on [platform] and noticed you are a [role] at [company]. While I am not sure if you are the right person to contact, I definitely have the experience that the team is seeking.
- I’m a senior from [school] majoring in computer science, and I would love to know about how I can contribute at [company].
- This past summer, I spent my time clinging to the side of a mountain for survival and now I’m ready to [scale the data mountain]. The first thing I wanted to do was reach out to you because I’m really excited about [position] I applied for and [company vision].
After that quick introduction of who you are, it’s time to show what you can do for them. This is the moment to show off your strengths and make them not regret opening your email. Have you done research that relates to their work or do you have experience already from internships or projects? Do you have ideas on how you can make them more profitable, save them time, or advance their work? Now is the time to explain that.
But, it’s important to remember that this is not just a rehash of your resume. In fact, your resume should be attached to the email, so you don’t need to jam everything into this paragraph. Just give them an idea of your most related and specific strengths, so they are excited to learn more.
Here’s an example of this second paragraph:
- As a Math major, I’ve taken the time on the side to perfect my code to analyze data problems. I’ve worked on 10+ data projects focusing on data cleaning, visualization, and prediction models using machine learning, neural network, and topic modeling. For example, with work in [impact statement], I can see myself leveraging those experiences scale the data mountain at [company].
Close it out with an actionable ending. Take the time to thank them for reading your email, acknowledging how busy they are and try to get something on the books. If they’ve made it this far, they will likely schedule something if your experience does match, so make it as easy as possible for them.
Here are some examples of good closing paragraphs:
- I know you are super busy, but I would appreciate the opportunity to hop on a quick call to learn more about [specific role/team]. Would you be free for a 15-minute call either [timeframe 1] or [timeframe 2]?
- If you could take 15 minutes out of your busy day to chat with me, I would love to learn more about [company] and see if I’m a good fit. Would you be free either [timeframe 1] or [timeframe 2]?
Don’t forget to sign your email with a “Thanks” or “Thanks in advance” and your name. You should also make sure you have a signature set up on your email account. You might want to include your contact information and personal website/portfolio in this section. And, like we mentioned, always attach your resume to the email. You don’t need to mention that it is there, but if you’d like to, you can say: “In advance, I have attached my resume for your review.”
5. Send your email at the right time
Yesware, a sales toolkit, created a map where they will tell you the best time to send it for highest reply rate in a certain place. For example, the highest reply rate from people in San Francisco is 4pm. But, if you’re emailing someone in New York, you’re more likely to get a reply at 6pm. Every little thing helps, so definitely time your emails in the best reply rate zones. Check out their map here.
6. Don’t be afraid to follow up!
Now that you’ve sent the cold email, a lot of people think the job is done. But, it’s not! You might not get a response the first time because the person was doing one of a million other things. It might not mean that they are not interested, it might just mean that they were busy. So, don’t be afraid to send a follow up email.
Wait 1 week and then respond to yourself in the same thread with a concise and polite follow up.
Here is an example of a good follow up email:
I know you must be busy, but I thought I’d quickly follow-up in case this happened to fall through the cracks. I’ve been making headway on current interview processes, but [Company] is solving a problem I know I care deeply about, so if you happen to be free during [time frames], I’d love to have a quick 15-minute chat. Let me know!
With these cold email for job application tips & email templates at your disposal, you should be more than ready to send great cold emails to recruiters and hiring managers.
Pathrise is a career accelerator that works with students and professionals 1-on-1 so they can land their dream job in tech. With these tips and guidance, we’ve seen up to 3x as many responses to applications.
If you want to work with our mentors 1-on-1 to get help with your cold emails or with any other aspect of the job search, become a Pathrise fellow.