The Art of the Cold Email
Allison Esposito gets a lot of cold emails – between five and ten every day, she estimates. People want to know how to break into tech, how to switch careers, and what’s wrong with their resume, among other things.
Allison has been a copywriter for Foursquare, a content manager at Google, and now she runs Tech Ladies, a community that connects women to tech jobs and generally supports women in tech. Her roles are impressive, but she’s approachable, she said. And so are most people. You just have to write the right cold email.
Here are her tips on writing the sort of cold email she’d be eager to answer.
Email the Right Person
At Google, Allison got job inquiries all the time. Often for totally different departments than the one she worked in. “If you are asking someone at a very big company, try to get someone as close to the department as you can,” she said.
“Do your research to get as close to the person, and do some LinkedIn stalking to try to make it as relevant as possible.” If you’re looking for a job in marketing and email someone in the finance department, they won’t be impressed.
What Do You Want? And Don’t Say to “Pick Your Brain.”
“Be as specific as possible in your ask,” Allison said. “Sometimes you get these emails that are like, ‘Hey, what’s up.'” Don’t do that. “I end up writing back with ‘what can I help you with’, which is putting the onus on the person you’re asking.”
One question is best, said Allison. Do you want advice on what job to look for next? Or whom you should reach out to help get your startup off the ground?
Your one question should not be “Can I pick your brain.” Way too vague. Think of the first question you’d ask them should you have the opportunity to “pick your brain” and ask that instead.
Don’t Ask Them for Coffee
“Something I see happen a lot is people will email me and straight up ask me for coffee,” said Allison. “That’s going straight to asking someone on a date before you meet them.” Not to mention, it would be impossible for Allison to have coffee with everyone who asks.
“Wait, learn more about them, make a personal connection. And if you can get a conversation going, maybe ask for a phone call first. Don’t open with coffee because busy people get a lot of that.”
Ask and Offer
In the Tech Ladies community, Allison tries to keep the ask-to-offer ratio equal. If you’re just starting off in your career or changing careers, “the hard thing is that you don’t have something great to offer, yet.” When Allison was new in her career she used to offer copyediting services to people she was reaching out to cold.
Sure, “it’s pretty rare that anyone needs anything proofread,” she admitted. But “even if they don’t take you up on it, it does show that you’re thinking of this as a two-way relationship,” she said. “You see this as a beginning of a great networking relationship.”
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