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How to Send a Cold Email that Grabs Someone’s Attention


If you’re interested in working in a certain field or industry, or at a particular firm, but have no obvious connections to it already, the best way to break in is by sending cold emails. However, this strategy may seem pointless to college students or young professionals who have tried it already, as they may have found that the vast majority of cold emails are ignored by the recipients. Why is this the case? While the recipients are usually extremely busy individuals, anyone can make time for a candidate or potential mentee they are interested in getting to know better. It’s just a matter of catching and keeping their attention. So, how can you stand out when sending cold emails and grab the attention of your reader? Read on to discover a few tips that will elevate your outreach.

I will also note that these tips can also apply to LinkedIn. On LinkedIn, you won’t have a subject line, but putting thought into the message you send to a potential new connection can go a long way if it’s specific to that person / firm they work at. If you have someone’s email, though, I usually recommend going that route since people are generally more likely to check their email than LinkedIn requests. That being said, I have had many conversations with students and young professionals who have reached out via LinkedIn, so it is a perfectly valid way to reach out.


Think about your subject line – get the recipient to open the email

The first thing a recipient will see when they receive your email is the subject line. Simply put, if a recipient isn’t intrigued by your subject line, they won’t open your email, and it will go straight to the trash. Thus, it’s extremely important to think about what you put in this one line. I’ve received emails from students titled “Interested Student from X University” or “Interested in [my firm]” or simply with their name in the subject line. As someone who has been on the receiving end of many emails, I will admit I tend to ignore emails with these types of subject lines and send them to the archives. Since they are so generic, I, as the recipient, am less inclined to read on to learn more about the student or professional.

So how can you create a more impactful subject line? Be specific about the opportunities you are emailing about and give the recipient context about your background (school or current firm). For example, if you’re sending cold emails to individuals who work at a renewables fund, you might title the email something like “[Your School] student interested in renewables investing at [the firm the recipient works at]” or, if you already work somewhere, “[Your firm + position] interested in renewables investing at [the firm the recipient works at]”. This makes it clear you’ve spent time learning about that particular firm and are not sending a mass cold email to as many firms as possible. Seeing that specificity in the subject line will likely make a recipient more willing to open your email to read it.


Don’t waste their time – attach your resume upfront

A common mistake I think a lot of cold emailers make is not sending resume when they first reach out. If all I know about you is that you go to a certain university or work at a certain firm and are interested in speaking to me about your interest in my firm, it doesn’t give me a lot of confidence that my time speaking to you will be well spent (i.e., I have no way to tell if you might become a potential future hire or become a part of my network that I can utilize in the future). However, if you attach your resume, I can assess your leadership involvement and professional experience before speaking to you. In doing so, I can get a better sense of what we can talk about, if you would be a fit for a role at my firm, or if you would be an interesting person to have in my network. This makes me more invested in our conversation overall.

Sending a resume beforehand also saves time for the recipient, as they don’t have to follow up to ask you for one if you are looking to get hired at their firm. In sum, having an up-to-date resume is key whenever you are conducting cold outreach, even if you are not actively recruiting. This also applies to outreach on LinkedIn, as you can send your resume as an attachment to the person to whom you are sending a message.


Keep the body of the email concise and interesting

There are a few things you should be sure to include in the body of the email, listed below. Feel free to use this as a general guide, but know that you can always change your general template for different roles or people.

· Introduction: Always give your name, what your current school and year, firm and position are.

· State the purpose of the email: State whether you are reaching out to learn more about a particular topic related to their industry focus or their firm in particular.

· Give any relevant details: Offer any relevant information that will make the recipient more willing to talk to you, whether that is anything you have in common with them (school, extracurriculars, interests, etc.), something you’re working on in your current role, how your interest in their industry started, the research you’ve done on their firm, or anything else. This will be the longest part of the body, so feel free to split it into 1-2 separate paragraphs if needed (instead of having a large block of text, which is less inviting to read).

· Offer time slots: give days and times you are available over the following week or two to give the recipient options to choose from. People are usually more inclined to respond to that or pick a time rather than suggest windows themselves (this varies by person, but it generally doesn’t hurt to provide these times)

· Thank them in advance: thank them in advance for their time and say that you look forward to learning from  or chatting with them.


Space out any follow-ups

Something I’ve been guilty of is meaning to respond to outreach emails but forgetting about them for long periods of time. So, I do appreciate a follow-up about a week later if I haven’t responded yet. This is generally a good time frame to shoot for, and I’d suggest 1-2 follow-ups spaced about a week apart before giving it a rest. Remember, you want to remind the recipient of your qualifications but not bombard them to the point where they no longer want to speak with you.


Good luck with your cold outreach!


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