Sick of applying for a job online and never getting more than the automated “We have received your application” email in response? There comes a time in every candidate’s job search where they lose faith in the online application process.
Unfortunately, many companies believe that they don’t need to reply, whether positively or negatively, to all applicants. As a result, job seekers are left in the dark. But there is hope for your online job search after all. That hope lies in a well-crafted cold email or InMail to the hiring manager.
What is a “cold” email? It’s a message you’re sending without introduction or prior contact directly to an individual person. While it varies from one company to the next, it’s often better to reach out directly to the person in charge of hiring for a position than to submit your application through an online system. It allows you to hit their inbox directly without having to go through an automated system (or after you’ve sent your resume in that way).
This approach results in more responses, regardless of whether they’re negative or positive. So before you give up on applying to jobs you find online altogether, try this clever job search hack to get your resume directly into the hands of the hiring manager.
Here’s how to do it:
Step 1: Finding the right person.
Once you’ve found a great opportunity and determined how well you fit the role and the company, it’s time to start planning out your cold email. Your first step is to find out exactly who you need to reach out to. Your first target will be the hiring manager.
Using these simple tips, you can quickly discover the job title of the hiring manager for the role:
Read the job description. While many candidates simply glance through a job description for job title and years of experience, it also has a wealth of information that can help you cater your application to better fit into what the hiring manager is asking for.
Furthermore, it just might tell you exactly who you would report to if you get hired. Conveniently, that person would also be the hiring manager you’re looking for. Read through the job description with a fine toothed comb. Look for sentences that say “This position reports to the [job title].” If you find the title of the person, great! That makes life a whole lot easier.
Find the boss. One of the easiest patterns to follow is the who’s-in-charge rule. Usually, you can safely assume that the hiring manager is the person who is the head of the team you’re applying to.
If you’re applying for a project coordinator position, your hiring manager would be the project manager. If you’re applying for a business development manager position, you can reach out to the director of business development. iOS/Android engineer? Look for the mobile product manager.
You’re looking for the person that you would directly report to if you got the job. With that in mind, a few simple LinkedIn searches will get you to the right person.
Find the recruiter. Sometimes, especially with larger companies that have complex chains chains of command, it’s difficult to find the right hiring manager. Luckily, there are other paths you can take to find a person to email.
Try looking for the relevant recruiter or recruiting manager for your position. For example, if you’re looking for a sales role, you can reach out to the company’s sales recruiter. As an art director, you can reach out to a creative recruiter. Or, as a software engineer, you can email a technical recruiter.
Note that if a company is small, they may have a single person or a small team of recruiters that works cross-functionally. Find the person that seems most relevant to your skillset.
Find the founders. If you’re applying to a small startup, there are times when it’s better to skip the rest of the team and reach out directly to the founders. This is especially true when you’re looking for a high-level position or one that doesn’t have a department head.
If you’re applying to become a sales director at a startup, you will be in a decision-making role and will therefore report directly to the founders. If you’re applying to become a social media manager for a team that doesn’t have a marketing director, you will likely work for a marketing director later on, but you will begin your job independent from other teams. In these cases, it’s best to reach out to one of the founders.
Figure out which founder is appropriate for the role - sometimes it’s better to reach out to a technical co-founder for a software engineering role, a business development co-founder for a sales role, and so on.
Once you figure out the title of the person you need to reach out to, it’s time to find out exactly who they are. For this, LinkedIn is your best friend. For demonstration purposes, we’ll use an iOS engineer role at Yelp, with a mobile product manager as the hiring manager.
1: Search for the company on LinkedIn. Once you find the right company profile, go to their list of employees.
2: Use LinkedIn’s advanced search function to search for the job title of the person you want to find.
3: Great, you’ve found the right person!
Note that sometimes you might come up with multiple results. Don’t hesitate to click into a profile, read about the person, and determine if they’re the right target for your cold email.
Step 2: Finding the right email address.
Now that you know exactly who to reach out to, you need to find out their contact information. There are a few ways to do this and all are relatively simple to get the hang of. For the purpose of this exercise, we’ll use the contact information of one of our co-founders, Stefan Mancevski, as an example.
Check their LinkedIn page. Some people are LinkedIn open networkers. This means it costs you nothing to send them a message introducing yourself. Take advantage of this during your search when you find professionals that have their profiles set to accept any message. This always takes the form of a “Send a message” button in the place where the “Send InMail” button usually is:
Furthermore, LinkedIn has a section in every profile where a user can enter advice for how to best reach them. Simply scroll through a person’s profile to see if they’ve made their contact information visible. The section says “Advice for Contacting [Name].”
If this section isn’t public, don’t despair! There are other ways to find the contact info you need.
Use Rapportive. Rapportive is a Gmail plugin that allows you to pull social information from any email address in your Gmail tab. You can use Rapportive to guess and check several email address ideas to find out which one is the right one. Typically, business email address formats follow a few simple patterns. Here are those patterns, as applied to Stefan.
Rapportive will allow you to quickly test each of these addresses to see which one comes up with a rich social profile. It pulls the information from LinkedIn profiles, so any address that is associated with a LinkedIn profile will come up as a positive match.
Here are the steps to using Rapportive effectively:
1: Download Rapportive. Note that it only works on Firefox and Google Chrome. After it finishes installing, refresh your Gmail tab.
2: Go to your Gmail tab and hit “Compose.”
3: In the “New Message” window, go to the “To” field and type in your selected email address.
4: Then, hit the “Tab” key on your keyboard. The result will look like this:
5: If you guessed correctly, Rapportive will pull up a rich profile of the person in a sidebar to the right of the “New Message” window:
6: If you guessed incorrectly, it will fail to find a profile:
7: Keep guessing and checking until you find the right email address!
Sometimes Rapportive won’t work. For example, if Stefan hadn’t linked his @gojobhero.com email address with his LinkedIn profile, you would not be able to pull up any information from the right address. In that case, there are alternatives.
Use Gmail. Tons of companies use Google Apps for Work, an enterprise offering from Google that allows them to run their entire work email service directly through Gmail. In other cases, individuals often create Google+ profiles with their work email addresses in order to utilize services like Google Hangouts for work. Whatever the reason, you can use this to your advantage to confirm email addresses. Here’s how:
Step 1: Type your first email guess into your Gmail search bar:
Step 2: Run the search, and see if Google pulls up a person’s Google+ profile directly in your Gmail tab:
Step 3: If you got it wrong, nothing will come up, so keep guessing and checking!
If all of the above doesn’t work, which does happen occasionally, try a Google search with each email guess in quotes (“firstname.lastname@example.org”). You never know what might come up:
And finally, if you just can’t find the right email address no matter how hard you try, don’t hesitate to upgrade to LinkedIn Premium. InMails can be a highly valuable resource and the added features are well worth the investment during your job search.
Pro tip: Once you find the right contact info, make sure you save it for future reference! Go to the relevant job card in your JobHero dashboard and hit “Add Contact.”
Step 3: It’s research time!
We talk a lot about research at JobHero. There’s a good reason for it. We wouldn’t want to hire someone who clearly didn’t take the time to learn anything about us when applying. And the reality is, most companies and hiring managers feel the same way, from the small and passionate startup to the giant Fortune 500 corporation.
Properly researching in preparation for a cold email has two crucial parts: researching the company and researching the hiring manager.
Researching the company. To properly convey your desire to join a company, you have to find things you love about them. Whether you’re a longtime user of their apps or you love the way they are tackling an issue you’re passionate about, find out exactly what it is that drives you to apply.
It doesn’t have to be complicated and you don’t have to go in-depth. Simply understanding and being able to convey your reasons for applying in a compelling way will be enough to gain the attention of the hiring manager.
To properly research a company, cover all the bases. Comb through the job description and Careers page to understand what they want out of candidates. Even if you’re reaching out without referencing a specific job opening, learn as much as you can about the team you want to join, what they need, and what they’ve accomplished.
Read through the company’s website thoroughly. Read their blog and glance through their social media posts to get a feel for the way they talk about themselves and find out their most recent accomplishments. Go deeper and read industry news written about them in various independent publications. And finally, use what you’ve learned to come up with some ideas and questions that you’d want to discuss with the hiring manager.
Researching the hiring manager. It’s especially important to know who you’re talking to when you’re sending a cold email. You will be reaching out to a person, not a company, and the key to effectively reaching them is understanding who they are and what drives them.
Start by reading through the person’s LinkedIn profile to understand their professional past. Did they move up quickly by jumping from opportunity to opportunity, or have they been lifelong employees of the company you’re trying to join?
Then, move on to their social media accounts. What are they talking about? Are they sharing any articles that you can relate to or find interesting? Are they discussing their needs and pain points in the workplace?
Finally, wrap up by finding their blog, personal website, or any other content-heavy media they put out. This can also be LinkedIn posts, forum profiles, or answers to questions on sites like Quora.
Use this information to compile a clear image of the individual you’re reaching out to. Figure out how to adapt your outreach to match this profile. Being able to effectively match your writing style to the mannerisms of the person you’re writing to is crucial.
It helps them more easily relate to you and makes your writing feel directly relevant and familiar to them. They will feel as though they’re speaking with someone who is similar to them - someone they can get along with easily.
Note that this doesn’t mean you should be fake or pretend to be someone you’re not. Instead, attempt to fit your own personality around the framework of theirs.
Your primary emphasis in your research for a cold email will be to understand how to speak to the person you’re contacting. You will only hurt your chances at being considered by making the mistake of using the wrong voice and tone with the wrong person. For example, if you find out that a hiring manager talks and writes casually in their social media and blog posts, writing in a stiffly and formally will only signal that you might not be the right cultural fit for their team.
So do yourself a big favor: make detailed research the centerpiece of your job search and adapt your outreach tactics to fit what you learn. It will make you stand out from the hundreds of applicants that decide to send a template email and resume. Hiring managers will notice your effort and will appreciate your passion.
Pro tip: As you research, make sure you’re taking and saving copious notes. Whether it’s directly in the Notes field of the job card in JobHero or in a Word document (upload your files directly to the relevant job card in your dashboard), make sure you store your research for future reference. It will be crucial when you need to do interview prep later!
Step 4: Pulling it all together.
When you’re sending a cold email to a hiring manager, don’t treat it as a job application. Instead, treat it as an opportunity to start a conversation. At the end of the email, you won’t be submitting your interest in the role. You’ll be asking for something concrete - a phone call or informal meeting.
Always write these emails from scratch and never use your cover letter as a template. Your aim is to be more than a generic candidate. If you send a cover letter as your cold email, you won’t go further than being asked to submit your application online.
An effective cold email pulls together everything you learned in your research and synthesizes it into short, to the point, effective outreach. Ideally, the email should be two short paragraphs in length - a quick read for the hiring manager.
There are three key parts to writing your email: the introduction, your relevance to them, and your ask. For demonstration purposes, we’ll be using a hypothetical startup that provides online marketing tools for small businesses.
The introduction. This is your opportunity to start your impression on the right foot. Depending on the company (startup/small team or big corporate office) and the individual, use a familiar or professional greeting (‘hello’ v. ‘dear’).
Then, give a quick line about who you are and why you’re in their inbox. For example, you can talk about how you’re a sales manager and you’re interested in the company’s efforts to help small businesses by providing them the tools they need to automate their online marketing efforts.
Your relevance. In the next part, talk about your background and its relevance to the company. Maybe you have a career in non-profits and you’ve learned the importance of a thriving small business climate. Or maybe you appreciate the efforts of small businesses to support local communities and want to give back. If you have a super compelling anecdote or past experience, this is the place to display it.
Whatever it is, say it in two or three sentences at most. This will quickly and effectively signal to the reader that you are someone relevant to them and their business.
The ask. The first two parts will have comprised one or two small paragraphs. The ask will comprise the second full paragraph. You’re looking for the chance to have a conversation with the person. A great way to start is to use the previously provided reasons as the justification for your outreach.
Try something to the effect of: “That's why I'd like to start a conversation with you. I love what I’ve seen of [company] so far and I’d love to learn more.”
With your purpose clear and present, you will then need to convince the reader that you’re worth their time on a phone call or in-person meeting. Bring up one or two discussion points -- maybe discuss the company’s potential for growth or an idea or two you’ve brainstormed for their products -- and that you’d be interested to hear their thoughts.
Thank the reader for their time, propose a few times when you’re free over the next two weeks, and add your phone number to close out your cold email. Here’s an example of the ask:
“If you’re available, I’d be glad to hop on the phone or meet you near your office to chat further. Does sometime next Tuesday morning or Wednesday afternoon work?”
Step 5: Time to hit send.
Awesome! Now that you’ve put together and proofread a great email, it’s time to put the finishing touches. Attach your resume, add a signature line with your name, contact information, and a link to your LinkedIn profile, and hit send.
Pro tip: If you want to know exactly what goes on when you hit send, use a tool like YesWare to track when a person opens your email! And finally, track your correspondence by marking down your outreach in JobHero. That way, you’ll know exactly when you sent the email and can set next steps for when you want to follow up!
Once you’ve hit send, it’s time to play the waiting and follow up game. Most people are busy and tend to forget to respond, so don’t hesitate to send a follow up email a week after your first outreach. In that follow up, don’t be afraid to to be even more explicit with your ask -- “I’d love to chat more -- does anytime 2-4pm next Thursday or 10-11am on Friday work for you?”
If you get a positive response and are given the chance to have a conversation, it’s time to start building a relationship, demonstrating your value, and positioning yourself as a potential asset to the company. You’ll develop a warm lead in a company you want to work for and can bring up the role you’re interested in alongside the conversations you’ve had as a way to get your foot in the door.
A cold email doesn’t have to feel like spam to the reader as long as you put in the effort to make it mostly about them and only peripherally about you. Be relevant and be passionate. Ask for conversations, and even if they don’t lead to work opportunities, you’ll be meeting new people, growing your professional network, and learning from professionals who have different and unique experiences in your field.