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How to Write a Cold Email That Gets a Response, Every Time

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You’ve just stumbled upon your dream job description. Problem is, there’s no direct contact listed, and you don’t just want to send your resume and perfectly-crafted cover letter off into internet oblivion.

[Related: The Right Way to Send Emails]

So, you internet stalk until you find something, but now you’re up against the dreaded cold email. How do you get this almighty HR manager to respond to you, a complete stranger? Follow these four steps and you’re golden:

1. Make your subject line count.

First impressions are important, and in the case of a cold email, that’s your subject line. Craft something that’s creative and info-packed, but also mentions what’s in it for the recipient, says Jacqueline Twillie, career advisor and author of Navigating the Career Jungle: A Guide for Young ProfessionalsThat could be as simple as helping the hiring manager out by specifying what position you’re interested in. Example: “PSU grad/former Daily Collegian EIC interested in editorial assistant position.” Done and done!

[Related: The Introvert’s Guide to Networking]

2. Personalize your message.

Copy and paste are not your friends. Employers can always tell when you’re firing off a generic message, so don’t even try it. Instead, tailor your email by including recent research you’ve done on the company (“I loved your latest ad campaign Reach Higher—Joanna’s story really resonated with me because XYZ.”) Twillie also says it’s OK to name-drop if you have a mutual acquaintance and his or her permission to mention it. Something like, “I’m a friend of Mark, your VP of Marketing….” (Better yet, ask that person for an introduction.)

[Related: 10 Teens Inspiring Us to Hustle Even Harder]

3. Keep it short.

As in two to three paragraphs at the most. “No one is going to spend a ton of time reading a message from a stranger,” Twillie says. After you hook the reader with your personal knowledge of the company, name the position you’re interested in and explain why you think you’d be an asset to the team. (Did you spend an entire summer pouring over Excel, so you have excellent data analyzation skills? Did you prep your boss for public speaking engagements, and therefore you’re good in high-pressure situations?) The big mistake to avoid here is going on and on about why it would be a great opportunity for you. The hiring manager knows that—otherwise you wouldn’t be applying! Prove why you’re the asset they need to bring on-board.

4. Make the timestamp work in your favor.

So, when’s the best time to send your message? Morning or evening? Monday or Friday? Twillie says social media can actually offer a bit of clarity. “If you notice that the person is active on social media in the morning, send your message in the morning,” she says. Why? Because odds are, you’re sending it during a downtime period when they may be more likely to read non-urgent messages. Either way, give it five business days, and then follow up with a quick one-liner: “Hi, X. I just wanted to make sure you saw my message. Hope to hear from you soon!”

Photo: Mikolette / Getty Images

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