Unless you’re the child of a business executive, the job-seeking process is generally quite tough. “Why won’t anyone hire me???” The reason is: that we don’t have pre-existing connections with companies we want to work at. Everyone keeps harping on the importance of networking but how are you supposed to go about doing it without an in?
The solution… Cold emailing. Cold emailing is one of the oldest yet most effective ways to build your network. “what does that mean Jeff? I don’t even know what cold emailing is nevertheless how to cold email.” Put simply, cold emailing means reaching out to people you don’t know via email (reaching out cold) and trying to build a relationship with them.
In this post, I’ll go over the fundamentals of building a cold email and also share some simple strategies which will (almost) guarantee that you get responses back and start to build your network today. Here’s how to cold email and build up your network base. Let’s get right into it!
Parts of a Cold Email
There are a million different ways you can format a cold email. Some people will advocate that you go shorter. Others will say that the more elaborate the better. Some people say cut right to the chase. And yet others will say you shouldn’t be too upfront.
Despite this, whatever your opinion is and whatever style you use, every effective cold email will (at least) have 3 distinct parts to it:
- Intro of yourself
Let’s face it. People are busy. Why should they take time out of their day to even READ the email of a stranger in their inbox, let alone respond to it? For all they know, you could be part of an email-marketing scheme or just some spam message that got through.
If you don’t give a good reason for a person to read your email, you shouldn’t expect any responses back. Likewise, some sources say that “the most important job of the first sentence is to get the person to read the second. And the most important job of the second sentence is to get the person to read the third… etc.”
With this in mind, the first few sentences of your email arguably form the most important part of it. So you want these to hook your recipient. There are a few ways to do this and their effectiveness goes in this order:
- Mention the person who referred you to them
- Bring up a time when you have met with this person
- Tell them where you found their contact information
If you got referred by someone, by ALL MEANS, namedrop them. This will give you a high chance of having your WHOLE email read by them.
Albert Albertson recommended that I send an email to you, because you’d be the best person to ask about Jackson Corp’s ice cream division.”
If you DON’T have a referral, the next best thing is to bring up a time when you’ve met with this person or have seen them speak:
“I saw you speak at the Jackson Corp conference last August and was impressed by your knowledge of the ice cream industry.”
Finally, if you don’t have a referral AND haven’t actually met the person, then you can resort to just letting them know how you came across their contact info:
“I came across your LinkedIn profile and was impressed by your extensive experience selling ice cream cones for Jackson Corp.”
Once you’ve gotten their attention with the hook, you’ll want to let them know who you are. This is so that they can feel at ease and make it so that they don’t feel like a random stranger just emailed them (even though you totally are a random stranger).
It’s good to introduce your work, school, charity organization or anything else you’re a part of which might relate to them. The key here is picking something which they can somehow relate to. For example, if you’re emailing alumni of your school, you should definitely introduce yourself as a student of that school. Likewise, if you’re connected via work somehow, mention that in your intro.
“As a quick introduction, my name is Kyran Kyranson and I’m a third year at BYU, looking to learn more about the ice cream division at Jackson Corp.”
“As a quick introduction, my name is Kyran Kyranson and I’m a current intern at Jackson Corp looking to learn more about how to landed the position you’re currently in.”
The final part of your email that every effective message should have is a Call to Action (or CTA).
What is it exactly that you want from this person? Do you just want to chat with them? Are you interested in interviewing for an internship at their company? Are you looking for general career advice?
Whatever it is, you need to include it in your email in a polite way if you want to have any chance of getting a response. Make sure that you are clear on what you want but also provide an out for the person. That being said, don’t make the out TOO easy. (There should be some pressure for them to respond).
Finally, it’s important to note that you shouldn’t dive too deep on your first email. Don’t immediately go and ask for an internship or a job. If you do, you’ll probably get no response. It’s much better to start off asking for a phone/zoom call, or a sit-down chat if you just so happen to be in the area.
“Because you’ve gone this route, would you have some time to offer a bit of advice on pursuing this career? I would really appreciate a quick phone call at your convenience.”
“I would love to hear your answers to……. Would you have time on May 19th or May 21st for a quick 10 minute phone call?”
The final thing you need to decide on for a cold email is the subject line. If your subject line isn’t captivating enough, they won’t even open your email and your chances for getting a response back plummet to zero.
A good subject line should be a tiny version of your hook plus a tiny version of your call to action.
“Albert Albertson Recommendation + Quick Call”
“Jackson Corp Conference + 2 Questions”
“LinkedIn Intro + Quick Chat”
Sample Cold Email / Email Templates
Putting it all together, it should look something like this:
Subject Line: Albert Albertson Recommendation + Quick Call
Albert Albertson recommended that I send an email to you because you’d be the best person to ask about Jackson Corp’s ice cream division.
As a quick introduction, my name is Kyran Kyranson and I’m a current intern at Jackson Corp looking to learn more about how you landed the position you’re currently in.
I would love to hear your answers to what experience would be relevant for working in the ice cream division and also what you find enjoyable about your work in the ice cream division.
Would you have time on May 19th or May 21st for a quick 10-minute phone call?
Best Regards, Kyran”
If you personalize this message to your desired recipients and manage to make your CTA without coming across as too transactional, there’s a good chance that the person you’re emailing will at least consider your ask and perhaps even respond.
After about a week or so, if the person you’re reaching out to still hasn’t responded, you can shoot them a follow-up message. Make sure that the second message doesn’t sound like something out of an email campaign and is short and sweet. For the example above, it might look something like this:
Just wanted to check in and see if you’re still available for a chat? I know you must be really busy so I’d appreciate any time you could spare!
Many Thanks, Kyran”
Cold Emailing Tips
Before heading out and mailing out emails left and right, here are some cold emailing tips and best practices to ensure that you have the highest chance of success with your cold outreach efforts.
- Make sure that your send and receive fields are correct – this sounds like such a basic item, but making sure the sender field has your name and the correct email address (and the same for the recipient field) is critical.
- If you’re copying and pasting an email template, make sure all the information is correct – the last thing you want is to address the person you’re reaching out to as the wrong name or leave in a “______” or “XXXXXX” in your email.
- If you’re mailing large amounts of people, consider using software to help – there are many software services out there nowadays like Constant Contact, Hubspot, and Mailchimp that help you send out mass emails. The only issue with these is that you might lose a personalization aspect, but they are still worth considering.
How to Cold Email and Build Your Network
Now that you have the format for good cold emails, all that’s left to do is to send emails and start reaching out to people! A quick note on this: like everything else in life, cold emailing is simply a numbers game.
If you were trying to shoot a basketball, you wouldn’t take one shot, miss, and then say “well I’m just no good at this. I’m never going to make a basketball shot.” You’d try again and again until you made a shot. If you took 10 shots, you’d have a pretty good chance of making one. 100 shots, and you’ll probably make a whole bunch. 1000 shots and you’re almost GUARANTEED to make 1, even if you’ve never played basketball in your life.
When cold-emailing, formatting is just one piece of the puzzle. The other piece is reaching out to TONS of people. Expect the response rate to be less than 10%. So if you reach out to 7 people, don’t be surprised if none of them respond to you. On the other hand, if you cold email 500 people, you’ll probably land a few phone calls.
So there you have it: How to Cold Email and Build Your Network like a boss. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start building your network. You’d be surprised how many people are willing to help if you just ask.
Jeff is a Harvard 2025 student passionate about making smart financial decisions both in school and in the workplace so that he can spend more time doing what he loves (like playing golf, spending time with family, and travelling). He has experience working in the financial industry and enjoys sharing all things personal finance, academic, and golf-related. Outside of blogging, he loves to cook, read, and golf in his spare time.