As college kids, we share a lot of similarities. We’re often stressed, we’re probably broke at any point in time, we love Netflix, and we basically live off of easy mac. But one more thing we share is that we are all looking for a job. We’re in college so that we can graduate with that 5 star dream job we’ve always wanted. So how do you land that job? Well, that’s a loaded question with a lot to it. We know all about resumes and cover letters, applications and deadlines, but one tool us as college kids don’t utilize nearly enough is the cold email. It sounds scary, but this can be an amazing tool in landing that job or internship you want…IF it’s done right.
Step 1: The Greeting
“To Whom It May Concern”
I have to admit I’ve been guilty of this in the past. I didn’t know any better. It sounded professional enough, and I didn’t know the name of who was going to be reading my cover letter, nevertheless how to address them. What I know now is that sending an email or cover letter that says “To Whom It May Concern” tells the receiving person that you didn’t care enough about who you were talking to to do 10 minutes of research. It is so easy to do a quick Google or LinkedIn search to find the correct person to send an email to AND their proper address. Do they have a Ph.D? PLEASE address them as so with “Dr. First Name, Last Name”. If they have no indication of a proper address, Ms. and Mr. are appropriate.
Nervous that you’re sending an email to the wrong person and addressing them with the wrong name? Don’t be. Using anybody’s name in the (correct department of the) company shows you cared enough to at least do some research about them.
Step 2: Introducing You
What comes next is who you are. After a brief greeting, such as “Good afternoon!”, introduce yourself and how you got their contact info. Isn’t there nothing more annoying than a brand or organization that you don’t know that keeps emailing you and all you can think is “who is this and how did you even get my email?” Your introduction can be short and sweet, but it’s necessary. So provide your full name, your major, the University you’re attending, and your year. Then explain to them that you got their email address from your peer, (insert name here), who interned with them last summer. Or that you found their contact info on LinkedIn, etc.
Step 3: So What Do You Want?
You don’t want this to be too forward, but you also don’t want to drone on and on. Respect this person’s time. Do you want a job or an internship? In what department/doing what? Do you just want more information about the company? Are you looking to interview somebody? Get to the point quickly so the person you’re emailing isn’t spending too much time trying to figure it out. And don’t beat around the bush with: “I was just wondering….” or “it would just be really awesome if….” or “you don’t have to but I would like it if…” Tell them what you’re looking for briefly, but do it respectfully.
Step 4: Show that You Did Your Research
And no, you can’t fake this, you have to do some research. Why are you applying to this job? What do you like about it? If you read the job description, maybe some reviews on GlasssDoor, and you’re so excited about this, thinking this is the PERFECT job for me, why? My recommendation is to go to the brands website and find an “About Us” page that will tell you about the company culture and values. Throw those into your email and you’re golden.
Step 5: So What’s In It For Me?
This is not a cover letter, so you don’t need to provide too much information. Just a quick (I’m talking 1-2 sentences) about your skills and experience that you can bring to the company. You don’t want it to seem like you’re just straight up asking a favor from them; this is an exchange. You are both providing something beneficial to each other. Tell them what you’re offering them. Don’t be afraid to use some buzz words. Adobe Photoshop, Social Media Campaigns, Google Analytics, SEO, Mailchimp, etc. are all platforms marketing employers love to see experience in. However, hold off bragging about your proficiency in Microsoft Office. We can all use Word. You’re not special. (Side note: the one exception to this is if you are actually certified, because then I’m impressed and you are pretty special)
Step 6: Thank Them & Wrap It Up
They just (hopefully) took time out of their busy day to read your email, a hopeful college kid looking for success. That’s awesome. Make sure you thank them for their time, because chances are they had a million other things they could’ve been doing. Don’t over-thank them and just take up more of their time. A one sentence “thank you so much for your time” will suffice perfectly. There’s no need to say “I know you are a very busy person so I greatly appreciate you taking the time out of your schedule to read this email. Thank you so much, it means so much to me” or anything of the sorts. Don’t tell them that you know they’re a busy person, show them you know by keeping it short and sweet.
Step 7: Signature
If you don’t have a default signature on your email, stop reading this and go put one on right. now. It’s not hard – for your UGA outlook account, all you have to do is go to settings (the little gear icon in the top right), search “signature”, click the first option “Email Signature”, and type up a little something. Include your name, university, degree name, phone number, and email. You can see mine in the example email at the end.
Did they answer you? See step 8. Never hear back? See step 9.
Step 8: The Reply
So they answer you! Awesome! Maybe it’s heartbreak and they say they aren’t interested, the deadline has passed, or the position has been filled. Or maybe they are excited for you and give you an essay on more info. Or maybe they simply give you contact information for a different person (get ready to start this process all over again). No matter what they say, always reply as a courtesy. Don’t you hate it when you email somebody and just never hear back? So just send them a quick reply to confirm you got their email and thank them for reading your email and getting back to you.
Step 9: Follow Up
If you don’t hear back immediately, don’t panic. Like we said, this person is probably very busy. Just because they didn’t answer doesn’t mean they don’t care or aren’t interested, your email just could’ve gotten buried under different emails or they simply forgot (How many times have you thought you responded to an email or text only to realize a month later you never did? Yeah it happens to professionals too). Wait approximately a week and then feel free to follow up. The follow up should be very short and sweet. Respond to you original email asking if they received your message and (briefly) thanking them again. You’re not being annoying, you’re showing that this opportunity is important enough to you that you’ll go through the effort of following up. If you still don’t hear back, and you may not, move on and try it again with a different position. It happens, and it’s a bummer, but you can’t force somebody to respond to you.
A Few Last Tips
– Don’t apologize a million times (“So sorry to bother you…”) It’s more annoying than it is thoughtful. Also, why are you sorry? You heard about an opportunity that interests you and you wanted more information. That’s nothing to be sorry about.
– An obvious one, but PROOFREAD. I once attached a draft of my resume that had placeholders like “Bullet 2.” A friend of mine was copying and pasting the same email to several companies and forgot to change the name of the company in the email. Yikes. Even just small grammar things can make a huge difference. If you don’t feel like a grammar wiz, have a friend or professor proofread it.
– Don’t sound pompous by pulling out those old SAT vocab words. They will be much more impressed by industry terminology than annoying words they’re gonna need a dictionary to read.
– Don’t attach a resume or cover letter. They may reply asking for one, which is awesome, but if they don’t ask for it, it’s a little aggressive to force one on them.
– Don’t overuse exclamation points. I’m guilty of this too, because often it feels like you can’t convey an excited/passionate tone over email and you don’t want to sound uninterested. Cue ending every sentence with an exclamation point. Resist. They can be used sparingly and tastefully, but don’t overdo it.
– Cold emails can be SUCH A GOOD TOOL if done right! Don’t be afraid to use it! So many of my peers got their internships from cold emails, and you could too!
To Ms. Jane Doe
Good morning! My name is Danielle Fay and I am a third year at the University of Georgia studying Digital Marketing and Fashion Merchandising. I received your contact information from my peer, John Smith, who interned in your marketing department in summer 2018. John told me about the program and it sounds like something I would be very interested in. (Alt if you didn’t hear about it from a person: “I read about your program on LinkedIn, Handshake, etc. and…) I loved the way that this internship program has x, y, and z (Ex: Leadership training, strong mentorship, company values of blah blah blah). I currently work as a marketing intern for a children’s clothing company, Grace and James Kids, where I design email newsletters using Canva, Mailchimp, and Adobe Photoshop, run, manage, and analyze social media campaigns on platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest, use Google Analytics to create quarterly sales reports, order from wholesalers, and communicate with customers on a daily basis. This position has strengthened my knowledge of the marketing and fashion industries and helped me realize this is the career path I want to take.
I would love to learn the steps on how to apply for this position, or if you could direct me to the correct person to contact for more information.
Thank you so much for your time, and have a great week!
University of Georgia Honors Program
BBA Marketing | Terry College of Business
BSFCS Fashion Merchandising | College of Family and Consumer Science
Feel free to add onto this with more cold email tips if you’ve got more! Hope this could help.