Unsolicited Cover Letter Emails

A cold email is like a handshake: We do it all the time, but we're not always sure if ours is strong enough.

Despite the gray area of a cold email's effectiveness, it's still one of the most helpful ways to get the job you want. Like most job advice, the key to the cold email is to own it like you've been doing it your whole life, just like Elle Woods getting into Harvard Law School.

See also: 10 Creative Social Media Resumes To Learn From

That is, you need confidence in your tone, even if you've failed before. Check out these seven tips to find out how you can write the most effective cold email possible, and remember the sage advice of Elle Woods when you want to give up.

1. Know something about the person you're emailing.

Everyone's heard the job interview version of this tip: Always research the company where you're interviewing. The same applies when sending a cold email, so make sure you know the recipient's job title, what she does in her position and a little bit about her background.

If you have something in common, highlight that connection (e.g., "I also came to journalism from the publishing industry").

2. Use a specific subject line.

If you're cold-emailing someone, it's likely that person is busy and receives numerous emails per day, including other cold emails. That's why a short, snappy and informative subject line is more important than ever.

If you've met the person briefly at a conference or career fair, include that information in the subject line ("Email intro, Jillian Kumagai from the conference dinner"). Other identifiers may also work in various circumstances, such as if you're a student at the person's alma mater ("Columbia senior interested in graphic design internship").

If you have no relation to the recipient, a reliable option is "Letter of interest in the manager job opening."

3. Don't hesitate to show that you're passionate.

A cold email is a first impression, just like the first few minutes of a job interview. A cold email that's, well, cold won't do you any good. If you feel strongly about the field you work in, don't hesitate to show that you're passionate about it.

If you're a fan of your prospective employer, tell them that. Showing your enthusiasm for your work is a great way to express your personality without coming on too strong.

4. Keep it short and direct — don't explain yourself too much.

Be passionate, but don't give your life story. The reason you're emailing should be apparent in the first paragraph, whether you're interviewing for a position or just starting a formal relationship. As a rule, a cold email shouldn't be more than a few paragraphs, and those paragraphs should be short.

5. If possible, show the work you've done.

You're more likely to get a response from a cold email if the recipient knows you're serious about pursuing your career of choice, and the best way to express that is to show your work.

Send along a streamlined portfolio or a link to your website if you have these, as well as links to social media and blogs — if they're professional. These are great things to include in your email signature.

6. Proofread.

There's more pressure on a cold email than an ordinary email because it will be scrutinized (just like a cover letter). Make sure it's flawless. Carefully proofread for typos or sloppy writing, because you can't unsend that email.

7. Follow up in a productive way.

If you don't get a reply right away, wait about a week before sending up a follow-up email, especially if you know that the person you contacted is busy.

When you do follow up, rather than harping on information you already gave, ask if she saw the first email and reiterate that you'd love to talk whenever he or she finds the time.

Tips and Samples for Sending Email Cover Letters

How to Send an Email Cover Letter and Resume

An email cover letter is a document sent with your resume to provide additional information on your expertise. It is written to provide information on why you are qualified for the job you are applying for and to explain the reasons for your interest in the company.

When you're sending an email cover letter, it's important to follow the employer's instructions on how to submit your cover letter and resume.

You need to make sure that your email cover letters are written as well as any other correspondence you send.

Even though it's quick and easy to send an email, it doesn't mean that you should write anything less than a detailed cover letter focused on why you are a good match for the job you are applying for.

Tips for Sending Email Cover Letters

1. Sending Email Cover Letters as Attachments

  • If the job posting says to include your cover letter and resume as an attachment, attach Microsoft Word or Adobe PDF files to your email message. Here's a step-by-step guide to sending your resume and cover letter as an attachment.
  • Save the files with your name, so they don't get mixed up with other applicant's materials i.e. alisondoyleresume.doc, alisondoylecover.doc.

2. Sending Email Cover Letters Without Attachments

  • Some employers do not accept attachments. In these cases, paste your resume into your email message.
  • Use a simple font and remove the fancy formatting. Don't use HTML. You don't know what email client the employer is using, so, simple is best because the employer may not see a formatted message the same way you do.

3. Don't Forget the Details for Your Email Cover Letter

  • How to Address an Email Cover Letter: Here's how to address a cover letter sent in an email message including what to use when you have a contact person and how to address it if you don't.
  • The Subject Line of Your Message: Make sure you list the position you are applying for in the Subject Line of your email address, so the employer is clear as to what job you are applying for. For example:  Subject: Alison Doyle, Social Media Manager Position.
  • Include Your Signature: Include a signature with your contact information, including name, address, email address, and telephone number so it's easy for the hiring manager to get in touch with you.

4. Double-Check Your Letter for Spelling and Grammar

Make sure you spellcheck and check your grammar and capitalization. They are just as important in an email cover letter as in paper cover letters.

5. Send a Test Message to Yourself

Send the message to yourself first to test that the formatting and attachments work. If everything looks good, resend to the employer.

Sample Email Cover Letter

Subject: Administrative Assistant/Receptionist – Roger Smith

Email Message:

Dear Ms. Cole,

I was excited to see your listing for the position of administrative assistant/receptionist at ABC Market Corp. I believe that my five years of experience in office administration and my passion for your products make me an ideal candidate for this role.

You specify that you’re looking for an administrative assistant with experience scheduling appointments, maintaining records, ordering supplies, and greeting customers.

I’m currently employed as an administrative assistance at XYZ company, where I have spent the past five years honing these skills.

I’m adept at using all the usual administrative and collaboration software packages, from Microsoft Office and SharePoint to Google Docs and Drive. I’m a fast learner, and flexible, while always maintaining the good cheer that you’d want from the first person visitors see when they interact with the company.

I have attached my resume, and will call within the next week to see if we might arrange a time to speak.

Thank you so much for your time and consideration.


Roger Smith

More Sample Email Cover Letters

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