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How Successful are Cold Emails to Employers?

By Kat Boogaard

Are you ready for a fact that’s sure to knock you back in your chair? An estimated 70-80% of jobs are never actually posted or advertised.

Wait, what? Let’s all take a deep breath and reflect on that for a moment, shall we? That’s a shockingly huge number of roles that you’re never even being made aware of, let alone given the opportunity to apply for. And, if your job search strategy typically consists of perusing job boards for available listings, this nasty statistic is sure to poke a hole in your sails.

So, now you’re left with another big question: If theses jobs aren’t ever actually posted, what happens to them? How do those spots get filled?

Well, there’s a variety of answers for that. Some positions are filled completely internally—meaning they never need to be shared with the outside public. But, more often than not, hiring for these non-advertised positions happens with a very organic approach.

It could be something as simple as an existing employee referring a friend or another person in his or her network. It could mean forming a relationship with a business, who then establishes a position just for you. Or, it could mean—and this is perhaps the most common—cold emailing an employer.

If you just had a shiver sent up your spine at the sight of the phrase “cold email”, I certainly can’t blame you. Those words are typically synonymous with a pushy, pesky, and overly salesy approach. However, if the majority of jobs don’t ever actually make it to your favorite job boards, cold emailing companies you admire can actually be an effective way to go beyond the listings, form a connection, and set yourself apart from the sea of competition.

As a matter of fact, it was a cold email sent to the president of the company that landed me my very first job out of college.

It’s important for you to recognize that there will definitely be some differences in the way different companies perceive this out-of-the-blue outreach (some will love it, while others might see it as a touch too aggressive). But, one thing’s for certain: It can’t really hurt—as long as you do it effectively.

That’s right, successfully cold emailing a potential employer involves a little more thought and elbow grease than quickly cranking out your message and hitting “send”. So, if this is an approach you want to implement in your own job hunt, remember these four key tips when crafting your own cold emails.

1. Address it Correctly

When it comes to cold emailing, it’s easy to feel like you’re sending your message off to float aimlessly in cyberspace. However, remember that your email could (hopefully!) skip the trash bin and actually be read by a real, live human being.

Now, if that real, live human being opens your message and is greeted with a generic line like, “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Sir or Madam”? Well, you’re not going to stay out of the trash bin for too long, my friend.

Even if you’re submitting to a email address, you should still make sure to put a name in the greeting. Find the name of the leader of the department you’re interested in, or even the president or CEO of the company. Anything (yes, anything) is better than those generalities that make everybody cringe.

2. Start Small

The most successful salespeople likely know better than to send cold emails that look anything like, “Hey, thanks for reading this! Buy this super expensive product I’m selling.”

No, instead, they start small and start to form a relationship. This is a tactic you can also use when cold emailing employers.

Rather than drafting a big, long email about all of your career hopes and dreams, attaching your resume, and ending with, “Please, please, please hire me!”, you’re better off starting with a smaller ask.

Perhaps you want to have a few thoughtful questions answered via email in order to find out more about the company. Or, maybe you’d like to set up a brief informational interview. There are plenty of more minor things you can do to start warming up the relationship, rather than barging right in with a, “Can you give me a job right now?” sort of spiel.

3. Sell Yourself

If you’re cold emailing a potential employer, chances are it’s a company you really admire. While it might be tempting to fill your message with all sorts of lines about how much you’d absolutely love to work for them, that’s really not your best tactic.

Why? Well, flattery can be nice—but it only gets you so far. Remember, employers are still always keeping their eyes peeled for the best talent. They’re actively seeking people who have the skills, expertise, and experience to truly push the company forward.

So, don’t focus so much on what the company can do for you, and remember to emphasize what you can do for the company. That’s much more impressive.

4. Follow Up

Here’s the thing about cold emails: They very rarely get an immediate response. More often than not, you’ll need to follow up before you hear anything more than crickets back as a reply.

Yes, I know, this can make you feel like a total pest. But, it’s an often necessary part of the process. So, if you’ve gone a week or two without hearing anything, don’t be afraid to circle back on your original message.

That continued effort and pleasant persistence shows the employer how invested you are in them—and, sometimes that’s enough to make all the difference.

The basic premise of job hunting should be simple: You find a listing for a job you’re interested in and then you apply. But, when the vast majority of open roles never even make it to your favorite job boards? Well, it’s obvious that your tried and true approach might not be the best way.

Cold emailing can be an awesome tactic for forming a relationship and getting your foot in the door with your dream company—as long as it’s done well. So, use these four key tips and you’re sure to draft an email that has the door swinging wide open for you.

Kat Boogaard

Kat is a Wisconsin-based freelance writer covering topics related to careers, self-development, and entrepreneurship. Her byline has appeared in numerous outlets and publications, including Forbes, Fast Company, The Muse, QuickBooks, Business Insider, and more. Find out more about her on her website, or connect with her on Twitter.

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