How to Send a Cold Email to One’s Dream Internship

Sending a cold email to a company you’re determined to work for is intimidating. You want to find the right balance between professional and personable, as well as make the recipient interested enough to actually respond. The good news is that cold emailing can be successful if you know what to do:

Get noticed

Your subject line has a lot more impact than you think — if it doesn’t immediately catch someone’s eye, your email will likely never be opened. Your recipient is busy and probably receives dozens of emails every day, and may even skim over them while distracted on the phone. It’s important that your subject line is catchy enough to stick out in a positive way.

Be specific but succinct. Put the important information at the beginning and make your point clear. It may help to include a common interest, like a shared alumni status. (“Fellow Jayhawk seeks marketing opportunity,” for example.) Consult with others to see what they think: would they open the email based on your subject line? You only get one first impression, so make yours count!

Choose the right greeting

For the first email, you want to be professional and respectful yet still warm. Always include a salutation instead of just starting the email with the recipient’s name — you want it to feel like a message, not a bulletin. Use “Dear” instead of a casual “Hi/Hello.” And always default to “Mr./Ms. Smith” instead of “Paul.” If they respond and sign only a first name, you can make the transition, but it never hurts to be formal in the initial contact.

Be confident

It takes guts to send a cold email, so do it with confidence. Don’t be timid about reaching out. Think of it not only as an opportunity for you, but as a chance for your recipient to meet a qualified, passionate colleague in his field. Your recipient wants to meet you, they just don’t know it yet! Don’t just send an email you’re content with, send one you’re excited for employers to read.

Include your résumé

Even if you’re just asking to buy your recipient lunch and pick their brain, include your résumé in your initial email. Some contacts may want to review it before agreeing to meet with you and will appreciate not having to ask. The easier you make the process, the more likely they’ll be to at least respond to you.

Keep it short and sweet

Once you’ve gotten them to open the email, reward your recipient by getting to the point right away. Forbes suggests sticking to a simple four-sentence structure that opens with the essentials: your name, current or desired occupation, and why you’re contacting that person specifically (make sure you’ve done your research). Then, ask to meet them to discuss their career and experience in the field — keep it focused on their wisdom, not your career opportunities. Give a simple time frame within the next week or two and offer to buy a cup of coffee. Find an appropriate way to sign off and leave it at that.

Follow Up

Give your recipient at least a week to respond. If after seven days you still haven’t heard anything, reply to your original email with a polite follow-up. It will add an “RE:” to the subject line and may make the recipient think they responded earlier, increasing the chances they’ll respond this time. As long as you give a reasonable amount of time, most professionals won’t mind follow-ups and may even be glad for the reminder — especially if they were impressed with your initial outreach!

Cold emailing is tricky, but not impossible. Don’t be deterred if it takes some time, and keep trying!


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