How to Write a Cold Email That Actually Works

The best method for job searching is to tap into your network of connections that will eventually lead to an open position that’s a good fit for you. If you are lucky enough to have well-connected friends or an established network, this is an easy step that involves shooting off emails to some old friends asking to reconnect and do you a favor. However, if you’re fresh out of college or entering into a new field, you must master the “cold email.”

In marketing terms, cold e-mailing is the idea of emailing an unsolicited pitch to a journalist or potential client. When it comes to job searching, it’s the same concept – but instead of pitching a product, you are pitching yourself. Cold emails are tricky but important, and there are a few things to keep in mind if you want to be successful with your cold emailing efforts.


Before you even decide to cold-email someone, research him or her first. If the recipient isn’t associated with your desired field, you’d be wasting your time writing the email and theirs reading it. Additionally, you don’t want the recipient to think you copy and pasted the same email to a number of different people. Use your research to customize the email and show the recipient that you appreciate their work and what they can do for you.


While the cold email is a professional tool, the tone shouldn’t be strictly business. By using a more conversational tone, you are able to humanize yourself and better relate to the recipient. However, you must be careful of seeming too casual to the point of disrespect. Finding a balance between professional and conversational can be difficult, but it’s important. Think business casual: you may not need a suit, but a t-shirt wouldn’t be appropriate.

Be Unique:

The marketing manager at your favorite tech startup has met and talked to countless budding professionals. Why should they take their time to help you out when they’ve already introduced so many others to their connections? You’re not the only one who needs a job, but you need to show why you’re the one who deserves it by standing out from the crowd. This doesn’t mean you should be flashy or exaggerate the truth. Find unique points that the recipient can relate to, similar to the Skills & Abilities section of your résumé. But remember: keep it brief. Give them enough to get them interested, and nothing more.


If you want the recipient to agree to a coffee meeting or introduce you to their connections, just ask them to do it. The best way to get help is to make it easy for them to give it to you; and if they don’t know what you need, they can’t help you. This requires a bit of confidence. Don’t say, “maybe we can meet up some time” and expect them to set up a meeting. Be specific - ask if they want to take a coffee break at the Starbucks near their office on Monday afternoon next week. If you want an introduction, offer to send your résumé along in a separate email with a more professional ask for the introduction.

School Pride:

Are you looking for a job in the field you studied at your alma mater? There are likely other graduates from your school that are already successful in that field. Use this connection to your advantage – your college or university’s alumni network is an invaluable tool. Use your school’s alumni office to find contacts, and don’t be afraid to mention it in your cold email. Since you were both educated at the same place, they’re more likely to trust that you know the field well because you learned it the same way they did.

Keeping these tips in mind, you’ll quickly be able to produce effective cold emails that result in making new connections - the first step towards finding a job that’s perfect for you.

Attending events at the Startup Institute and taking our 8-week core program are great ways to build your network. Learn more about the program on our website, and follow us on Twitter to see what’s going on.


Post by Dylan Manley, Content Marketing Associate at Startup Institute Boston. Find him on Twitter at @dcm510