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The Art of the Cold Email

Contributor Ronnie Du

Dear reader,

This is cold email. It is unsolicited, out-of-the-blue, and from me, a complete stranger. But now I—someone who you met a mere two sentences ago—am asking you for something. I might be asking for a research position, or an internship, or a job, but today, I am asking you to take a look at the remainder of this article to see how you can write a better cold email.

Cold emailing is an art—it relies on the interpretation and response of the recipient, making it more of an unsolicited pick-up line, if anything. And being that every person responds differently to a work of art, it is crucial to tailor your email to the reader as best as you can. Research your target before emailing them, and try to incorporate their research or professional interests into your writing. You don’t need to sound like an expert in their field—in fact, them perceiving you as more knowledgeable than you are could work against you in an interview. However, it is important to demonstrate genuine interest in whatever area they have devoted their life to. Although tailoring your emails is pivotal to cold emailing success, this is not to say that templates can’t work. But, when using templates, be sure that they cannot be identified as such. This means avoiding generic statements, like, “I found your work very fascinating and would love to learn more,” and remembering to replace the blanks with the proper names of the person you are emailing. The horrific embarrassment of sending a cold email addressed to the wrong person can be avoided by proofreading each email before sending.

Moreover, if you have a lengthy mailing list of cold emails, do not send them all at once. By sending the emails in small batches and measuring the responses that you receive, you can make refinements to your emails before sending out the next batch. Then, rinse and repeat until you’re happy with your results.

Additionally, remember to be concise and to maintain a professional tone. Keep your email to a couple of paragraphs, max, and sign off with your full name. Avoid the obvious pitfalls, such as slang, abbreviations, or emojis. If you are emailing a professor, address him or her by their title (Dr., Professor), followed by their last name. After you’ve introduced yourself, be sure to highlight your relevant experiences and qualifications. Try explain why you would be good for the position in question. Follow that up by stating your availability, while ensuring that you have ample time for the position. Close by thanking them for their time and ask if they are willing to chat with you. Once you have attached your resume and transcript, proofread, send, and do it again.

Above all else, keep trying. Not every email you send out will receive a reply. Perhaps you’ll be be ghosted, rebuffed, or completely ignored—just remember that it only takes one “yes” for the tedium of cold emailing to be worth it.

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