Between 70 and 80% of jobs aren’t advertised on job boards, so the best way to get a job in a new industry is to get directly in front of employers in the field you’re trying to break into. The easiest way to do this is through their inbox. But with only one chance to make a good impression, it’s important to avoid making the type of mistakes that will get your cold email for a job deleted within seconds. If you’re trying to make a career change and looking for someone to take a chance on you, here’s how to write a cold email for a job in your dream industry.
Seek out the right email address
When writing a cold email for a job, avoid sending emails to generic ‘[email protected]’ email addresses. While the websites of most companies direct all job queries to an ‘[email protected]’ or ‘[email protected]’ email address, the truth is that these addresses are often low-priority for these companies. Some may look at them just once a week or entrust interns with the task of checking them.
Reduce the chances of your email going unnoticed by working out exactly who you want to read your email and finding their email address. If you’re pitching for a potential job opportunity, focus on the head of HR. For small startups that have just a couple of employees, the decision-maker you need will most likely be the CEO or founder.
But where can you find their email address?
First, check the company website and look for a ‘people’ or ‘team’ section. Some companies list the email addresses of staff members in this section. If they don’t it’s time for some guesswork.
While the websites of most companies direct all job queries to an ‘[email protected]’ or ‘[email protected]’ email address, the truth is that these addresses are often low-priority for these companies.
Most companies create email addresses as follows:
Put all of these options into Google and see if any bring up a hit. If they don’t, check the person’s social media accounts. People often write their email address in their LinkedIn or Twitter bio. And for founders of smaller companies, it’s worth scrolling through past tweets to see if the person has previously tweeted their email address when replying to someone requesting to get in contact with them.
If that fails to reveal an email address, try sending your email to each of the options listed above. Incorrect emails will lead to a bounce-back message, while correct emails won’t.
Alternatively, if the company has a phone number, why not call it and ask for the email address you are looking for?
Keep your cold email for a job short and to the point
Before writing your email, figure out exactly what you want from that person. Perhaps you want work experience or maybe you’re interested in finding out about upcoming opportunities for new hires. Whatever it is, be clear about it.
Avoid sending vague emails that invite the decision-maker for a coffee and chat. You may have been told that this is the best way to make a cold approach, but the reality is that most of us are too busy managing our own workloads and lives to spend time and money on coffee dates with total strangers.
If you feel that you have to speak with the person, ask for a 5-minute phone call at the first instance, but always specify what you want to talk to them about. It’s important to respect someone’s time and you can do this by giving them all the information they need to decide if this is a conversation they (not just you) want to have.
Avoid sending vague emails that invite the decision-maker for a coffee and chat.
Provide information they need to decide if they want to talk to you
It’s easy to get so focused on your ‘ask’ that you forget to provide much-needed context. Make sure you sell yourself by always:
- stating who you are
- explaining your relevant background (avoid self-deprecating emails that say ‘I have no experience and I’m hoping you’ll take a chance on me’. These create a bad impression and provide no motivation for someone to get back to you as they have nothing to gain from doing so)
- providing examples of previous work that show you have something to offer them e.g. your CV, portfolio, links to published work, relevant photos etc.
Ask for one thing at a time… and keep it manageable
Remember that you are approaching a stranger for a favour, which means the odds are already not in your favour. This is simply because when someone puts you forward for a job or professionally recommends you, they are personally endorsing you and are putting their reputation on the line. This means that most people will only do professional favours for people they can vouch for. The smaller your ask, the less of a risk the person you are asking has to take to help you out.
So, how can you judge if your ask if appropriately small? If you have no experience in a field and have seen no evidence that the company you are approaching is looking for inexperienced people to hire, avoid asking for paid employment of any kind. Instead, focus on enquiring about shadowing, work experience or internships.
When someone puts you forward for a job or professionally recommends you, they are personally endorsing you and are putting their reputation on the line.
However, if you have relevant experience or skills and you have seen evidence that this company may be interested in new hires, it’s more appropriate to ask about upcoming opportunities.
The safest approach of all is to ask to learn more about the company and the person’s ‘fascinating’ role. That will help you establish rapport and safely judge if any job opportunities exist without having to directly ask.
Cold emails aren’t the only way to find job opportunities in a new industry. Check out this post on five places to find a job without using a job board.
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