A Guide to How to Cold Email for an Internship or Job

Sujan Patel
Sujan Patel  |  March 27, 2019

The days of job 'fishing' – sending out your resume or application and sitting back to wait for a response – are over. Most job openings attract far too many applicants for it to be so easy.

Hiring managers, business owners, and human resources personnel are often spread thin and receive heaps of email each day. Naturally, this presents a problem for those wanting to get noticed and hired for a job or internship opportunities.

It's a challenge, but there is an answer – go job hunting.

Job hunting means taking a proactive approach. It means shifting from a mindset of waiting to one of actively seeking through job search sites and recruiting networking events. It’s for those determined to create an opportunity rather than waiting for one to present itself.

So how do you do it? Cold calling is one approach you could take, but a better use of your time is cold emailing. A cold email strategy can be an excellent tool to start a conversation, and it's much more scalable.

How to cold email for a job

Cold emailing might sound daunting, but in a world where so many things are competing for people's attention, you’ve got to do something to set yourself apart. Email can do that for you.

With that in mind, here’s how to successfully cold email for an internship or job.

1. Master the Delivery

The factors that go into a successful cold email outreach campaign are many. However, if you focus on a select few, you can see serious results. Here are some of the most important:

Email the right people. Your message is only as good as the people you send it to, so a little prospecting and research goes a long way. LinkedIn is a great way to prospect for free. Once you’ve made a list of potential contacts and companies to reach out to, use a lead intelligence software to verify email addresses for each person.

Send at the optimal time. One study shows the time of day with the highest open rate is 2 p.m. Another study says the best day to send email is Tuesday. Don’t limit yourself to only this time and day, of course, but take it into account when scheduling your weekly email cadences. And try testing out different days and times for yourself – you might find your results vary.

Nail the subject line. If your email never gets opened, it doesn’t matter if you’ve got the right person, at the right time, and the best pitch imaginable. 47% of emails are opened or discarded based solely on their subject line, so spend extra time crafting yours. The ideal subject line is short, personal, and has a conversational tone.

Craft the Perfect Email Pitch

Make no mistake: you are pitching yourself just like a product. And similar to selling a product to a customer, you shouldn’t talk about yourself, but rather what you can do for them.

Tailor your email as much as possible to the person/company you're emailing. Ideally, the initial email will include a brief introduction of who you are and what you can do for them, and end with a call-to-action.

Be surgical about the body of your email. Cut any extra content that isn't absolutely necessary. Each line should build off the last and entice them to read the next. Repeat any buzzwords you find on their website, LinkedIn profile, promotional materials, and in the job posting itself in your email body wherever you can fit them in naturally.

It’s critical you don’t overdo it. If they open a small novel with several long paragraphs or one large block of text, they’re less likely to read it. Instead, keep your emails short and to the point to increase the chances of getting a response.

How you end the email is just as important as how you start it. It’s a good idea to keep your call to action or request simple, especially if it’s your first interaction with them. Whatever it is, make it easy for them to say "yes." Ask them to meet for coffee near their office, or request a five-minute call (instead of an hour-long meeting).

Consider Alternative Approaches

Unpaid internships have come under fire recently, and may be falling out of favor. However, offering free work – especially in certain creative professions – can help you get your foot in the door and show you’re a serious candidate.

If you’re dead set on working for a certain individual, company, or sector, then you may have to make sacrifices. If you’ve exhausted all avenues seeking out paid work, then offering services free of charge could be the way to get started. It significantly lowers the barrier to entry and gives you the opportunity to impress.

Again, make it easy for them to say "yes." Rather than asking “How can I help?” – which creates a burden on them to figure out what task they can give you – try offering solutions. Do some research and determine what specific skills or expertise you have that they might find useful, or where you could bring value to their life or business.

It could be doing graphic design work for their marketing campaign, transcribing a podcast audio, sending ideas for articles, performing research, or turning their data into infographics. Get creative with it. Do your homework and find out if they're struggling with certain areas where they're lacking time, resources, or experience.

If you find the concept of free work crazy or unreasonable, consider the fact that you’ve been working for free for most of your life. You likely worked for years at school for free. In fact, if you went to college or private school, you likely paid someone to work there. What’s a few more months of working for free to gain access to a high-profile mentor or hard-to-reach company?

As Warren Buffett once said, “Price is what you pay; value is what you get.” Free work is a small price to pay for a tremendous amount of value.

Make Time for Follow-up

Standing out amongst dozens (if not hundreds or thousands) of applicants is hard. One of the best ways to set yourself apart is by following up.

In sales, 92% of salespeople give up after four “no’s,” but 80% of prospects say “no” four times before they say “yes."

When emailing about a job or internship, you're likely emailing some of those same business owners and company leaders, and you're likely to see some of the same results. So be persistent.

Keeping track of who you’ve sent emails to and when you should follow up can be difficult and time-consuming, so consider automating the process with an email automation software. Many of these tools let you create templates to start conversations and to follow up on unanswered emails you sent.

You can also set the frequency at which the follow-up emails go out. And as soon as the recipient answers, you’re notified so you can take the conversation to a more personal level.

The right job, internship, or mentor can literally change your life. Rather than leaving it up to chance, take the path less traveled and go on the offensive. Cold email is one of the greatest tools at your disposal for reaching “unreachable” people and positions. It can start conversations and build connections you would otherwise never come across naturally.

Want to learn more about cold emailing? Check out these cold email outreach templates!

Sujan Patel
Author

Sujan Patel

Sujan Patel is the co-founder of Web Profits, a growth marketing agency helping companies leverage the latest and greatest marketing strategy to fuel their businesses. In addition to running his marketing agency Sujan is also a partner at a handful of SaaS businesses, including Quuu.co, Narrow, Linktexting.com & Mailshake. His SaaS companies help 10,000+ marketers scale their social media, mobile marketing and content marketing efforts.