How to cold email a potential employer

Here’s something you should know about the job market – a lot of it his hidden. How much depends on who you ask. Some say 80% of jobs are never posted. Though there’s not much evidence to show that’s actually true, it’s probably a lot.

How do you tap that hidden market? A few ways. One is through your network — people like to hire friends, acquaintances, and referrals. Another is to research the companies and people you’d like to work for and write to them directly, asking if there is a place for you. Any company might be hiring, even if a job hasn’t been posted yet. Maybe they haven’t gotten around to posting something, or have no plans to because they are expecting to hire internally, or for their own employees to bring in referrals.

See also: By the numbers: Canadian employers reveal how they screen job applications

One of the benefits of connecting with an employer when not applying for a current job posting is that you won’t get lost in a sea of fellow applicants. Another is that, even if they’re not currently hiring, you will be on the radar when they are. And, since people are staying in jobs for shorter and shorter periods of time, that could be soon. A third is that sometimes people don’t even know they’re looking for something until it walks right up to them. If an employer can see that you will bring value, they might create a role for you, even if they don’t currently have an opening.

I, for one, have had immense success with cold emails.

How to send a cold application

A cold application is your chance to make an impression, get yourself onto the employer’s radar, and possibly get your foot in the door.

Here is how do you go about sending one. This is assuming you don’t have any connections in common. It’s great if you can mention someone you both know. But let’s focus on pure cold applications for now.

First, you need to know who to send it to. Research the company and department where you would find a suitable job. If you’re not sure about these things, it’s time to stop and go back to the drawing board. Don’t look for a job until you know what job you’re looking for. Figure out what you’re qualified to do, find the jobs that fit that, and seek them out.

Then find the person to whom you should apply. This is usually the Manager or Director of the department that would employ you. Only if it’s a relatively small company should you approach someone like the CEO. Otherwise, go for someone lower down the ladder. If you’re a developer, you might approach the User Experience Manager or the VP Technology. A content creator: the Content Manager or Director. A salesperson: the VP sales, or a Sales Manager. These are just examples. Do your own work.

Get their email address. This can often be done simply by checking the company website. If it’s not there, figure out the company email formula – eg: [email protected], or [email protected], and try that. Another option is to call the company and ask for it. Or you can reach out on LinkedIn and ask for it. I would not go through your whole pitch on LinkedIn. Just say hello and ask if you can have their email address.

Once you have the email, send a friendly and professional note introducing yourself. Don’t send a cover letter. Say hi, say who you are, and what you do. Explain why you are writing and ask if there is a place for you in the organization. Say something complimentary about the company, and why you want to work there. List a few of the positions for which you would be suited, and highlight any accomplishments or qualifications that would make the person sit up and pay attention. The key is to come across as friendly and professional, and also to make them see that you would be a valuable asset to the company.

 Do not say that you have applied for 75 jobs and nobody has replied to you. Do not say that you “need” a job. Stick to demonstrating why they would be insane not to hire you – without saying that.

Keep it relatively brief. Sign off with a “Thank you in advance.”

Attach your resume and/or link to your LinkedIn page.

It’s up to you whether you want to request a meeting. I am not entirely for this. It places a burden of an ask on the recipient and can be offputting. It will be obvious that you want to meet, and if they also want to, they will extend an invitation. If you feel you must say something, say you would “love to meet over coffee to chat.” But absolutely do not do that pushy thing some people suggest and say something like “What time next week is good for you to meet over coffee and discuss this?” That’s presumptuous and pushy and basically the worst thing ever.

Hit send. Then wait.

If you haven’t heard anything in two weeks, follow up, and ask if they received your email. If you don’t hear anything back after that, set up camp outside their office and WAIT FOR THEM.

I’m joking! Let it go. The reality is that many people probably won’t reply. It’s annoying, but it’s life. You move on.

Now, here is my secret: I have email tracking software that tells me when someone opens my email. There are free versions with less functionality, and versions you pay for. And it is worth every penny. I never wonder anymore whether someone has opened an email.

You should get one of these. That way you will know who has read your message and who hasn’t.  It shouldn’t change much in your interactions since you mustn’t tell anyone you’re tracking whether they open your emails or not (well, I guess I just told the whole world. But YOU shouldn’t.). But it will give you an idea as to who is deliberately leaving you hanging and who just missed your message. And if you think they really missed it, you could follow up an extra time.

It’s important to tune into all channels, and not just wait for the perfect job to show up on a job board. Check job boards regularly, of course, because it certainly might. But if you don’t see your dream job today, that doesn’t mean it’s not available to you.

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