How to write a persuasive "cold email" for the unlisted job you want

Sometimes the most appealing jobs at the most promising companies can't be found online. Here's a guide to get a foot in the door.

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Image: iStock/Rawf8

You're starting out with lofty aspirations, seeking a career position at your dream company, or perhaps you're already established, but have always wondered what it would be like to work for a certain business, with its sterling reputation. 

Unfortunately, it seems that jobs at your preferred company are few and far between. Online job searches have yielded no hits for your skill set. What many tech pros might not realize is that you're not limited to posted or publicly announced open positions.

In the old days, salespeople made what were referred to as "cold calls," which meant contacting (calling or door knocking) potential clients or businesses without an appointment or an introduction. Resume.io, which examined the keys to successful email communication, suggests you might send what they're calling a "cold email," a "speculative inquiry for the job you desire, even if it hasn't been advertised or might not even exist (yet)." 

"A well-written email sent to the right person can give you a huge advantage over candidates still sending resumes through job boards," said Resume.io's chief human resources office Rolf Bax. "Cold emailing like this means that you're no longer a faceless application among thousands of others going to HR."

The Resume.io report said that 80% of jobs aren't publicly advertised, even though that percentage can easily be disputed because, by definition, you can't see unadvertised positions or those which haven't been created yet.

"The pandemic has accelerated the move to fully remote teams, opening a door to dream employers for many candidates," Bax said. "Cold emails can allow them to stand out and get the foot in the door regardless of their geography."

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Networking is another necessary and savvy  business tool once relegated mostly to salespeople or members of local chambers of commerce. But Resume.io noted that 85% of jobs "are gained by networking, sending an on-spec email is networking," and, as it points out, networking on your terms. 

Essentially, you have nothing to lose by formulating an email recommending yourself for a position you're qualified for, and suggesting they might consider you should there be an opening; if you impress them enough, they may even meet with you before announcing an opening. You have everything to gain if it facilitates a conversation between the company and yourself, and even more so if what you've proposed is a position that currently doesn't exist.

Have a well-crafted plan, not only for the formulation of your email, but for the position you want. It's possible to provide the company with what you can do for them without giving them an idea of a job which they might give to someone else. 

The report cites an example of a student sending out a cold email that persuaded the company to hire him and he was able to rise up in the ranks. Try "different mediums" of applications to show an employer the value you can deliver," the report quoted the former student.

The eight essential elements of an effective cold email, according to Resume.io

  1. Send to the right person
  2. Write an attention-grabbing subject line
  3. Get your salutation right
  4. Briefly introduce yourself
  5. Tell them why you're reaching out
  6. Tell them what you can bring to the company
  7. Close with a question (not a demand)
  8. Get your goodbye right

Five ways to maximize your cold email

  1. Include only the essentials
  2. Read it out loud before you send it
  3. Send your email on a weekday around midmorning
  4. Avoid spam filters
  5. Wait a week before following up

After you've written the email, what next? Do you do what you would do post interview and follow up?

"We would recommend you follow up within a week, just in case the other person missed your original email," Bax said. "Don't spend too much energy wondering why the person hasn't replied, though.  It's important to accept the fact that you won't always hear back, and that's not a reflection of who you are as a professional. There are only so many factors within your control, just shift your focus to another potential employer and give it a shot."

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Image: Resume.io

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