How to write a ‘cold inquiry’ email

It’s been said that many of the best jobs aren’t advertised. Conventional wisdom holds that it’s “who you know” that matters when seeking desirable employment.

But if you don’t “know” anybody, then what? Don’t despair. You’re still better off at landing a great position if you reach out to an employer instead of waiting for them to reach out to you.

Don’t wait for a job to materialize in the want ads; actively seek it out by researching companies where you’d like to work. Once you have a list, you’re ready to start emailing. It’s never easy to make an unsolicited inquiry, but being prepared can make it a whole lot smoother. Here are some guidelines to help you make a good impression.

Who’s calling the shots?

Blindly sending out applications is about as effective as trying to connect through telepathy. And sending emails to the human resources manager is not that much better. You need direct communication with a real person, somebody who can help you get what you want but isn’t too high on the totem pole to make time for you. In other words, unless you are referred directly, the company CEO might not be your best target, but neither is an intern. A Google or LinkedIn search can help you identify appropriate contacts in the departments for which you’d like to work.

Who knows whom?

You may not know anybody, but maybe your friends’ friends do, or your dad does, or your dad’s friends do, or your former boss’s wife does. The point is, the best way to get to know somebody is through an introduction. And with social media, it’s easier than ever these days to see who knows whom.

After you’ve made a list of where you’d like to work, review your contacts to see if anyone has connections at your desired companies. LinkedIn is an excellent resource for this. Often companies have their own LinkedIn page, which makes it easy to identify not only who works there, but which of your contacts has connections there.

Once you’ve identified an appropriate contact, ask if they feel comfortable making an introduction or serving as a referral. It doesn’t necessarily have to be with a decision-maker, you just want to get your foot in the door somehow.

What to say

Above all, the message should be short and sweet. Start by introducing yourself right away, mentioning your referral (if any) and clarifying why you are emailing. Try not to sound like a form letter. Write clearly, briefly and enthusiastically about your sincere interest in the company and your desire to learn more about their department. If applicable, try to touch on a few points that demonstrate your knowledge of the company. And end with a specific call to action, i.e. a request for a short informational interview, or guidance on how to proceed from here.

Remember, don’t be pushy and don’t waste their time with a long email. You’ll only annoy them.

When to follow up
It’s very likely you might not hear anything right away, or at all. Don’t let this dissuade you. Your email is probably not a high priority, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are rejecting you. Give it a little time and then follow-up with a friendly message to say you’re still interested. If you have something new to contribute to the conversation, even better. Be persistent, not a nag. If you’re respectful, they’ll likely respond on their own time.