Cold Emailing: How can I create an effective cold email?

I want to learn everything about certain topics. As a kid I studied vertical jump training so I could dunk.

I ruined my legs. But in a good way. My leg muscles still remember the training and I can still dunk a basketball to this day.

Cold email is one of the topics I study now. I started studying it 6 years ago.

More important than learning about some thing. Is learning about someone.

The most important person you can learn about is yourself. Then you can help others.

I hope this helps you.


1. Research

Before cold emailing someone do your homework. Research the person by viewing their online profiles.

Find common ties with the person, what they are about, and their interests.

Before I contact or meet with someone I make a note of how long they’ve been in their role. Their tenure at companies.

I like to have a clear idea of how they started their career.

This extra work will help you when you start writing your message to this person.

2. Tone

We don’t focus on the tone of messages enough.

"It's not what you say, it's how you say it" comes to mind.

When I started writing cold emails I had this B.S. corporate tone to my emails.

They were filled with countless buzzwords and phrases that I would never put in a message to a friend or family member.

Find your voice before you write. And use a casual tone to get the most out of your message.

3. Mutual Interest

You did your homework and you found mutual connections and interests about the person you want to contact. Use these topics in your message and subject line to warm them up.

Think about how you act when you are messaged out of the blue. Your prospect will approach your message with the same amount of skepticism.

Use the information you find to get your message opened and a response.

4. Give Details

Make your message interesting by giving details that are truthful.

Whether you are selling something, prospecting for a service, or even recruiting for a role.

You need to give details about things they want to get them interested and to pique their interest.

5. Proof

You must provide proof.

Proof that you know who they are. The easiest way to do this is to personalize your message.

You found out a great deal about "who they are" so let these details spill into your message.

Show the person you know who they are.That you are writing to them specifically and you have done your homework.

Proof keeps people from sending your message to the trash.

6. Ask A Question

Use a few questions in your message.

Don’t be the person that writes “look at me” emails.

A good cold email isn’t a monologue. It should engage the reader and prompt a response.

If you see something you don’t understand or there is something you don’t know about the person.  

Admit it. Then ask the question in your message.

I like to use both open and closed ended questions in cold emails.

7. Read Between The Lines

Some prospect's online profiles are pretty bare or have no information beyond their job titles and employer names.

You need to make educated guesses as to what they are up to and what their interests are. Your experience and knowledge of similar people will help.

Make educated assumptions and guesses in your message to connect with the person you are trying to reach.

8. Challenges

Why do people climb Mount Everest?  

We love challenges.

In recruiting messages be sure to talk about the challenges your company is facing and where they can add value if they join.

Allowing them to make better use of their current skills. Or maybe it’s time to develop new skills and try a challenge they haven’t yet worked on.

If you are selling something your message should address a challenge or two that your target customer is facing and how you solve it.


“The great thing about our software is that it gives you a single place to manage all your HR -- payroll, benefits, compliance, etc. It also automatically takes care of all the administrative headaches you don't want to deal with (health insurance forms, payroll deductions, etc.) I really think we can save you a bunch of time (and, possibly, money) dealing with this stuff”

Just an example of a well written cold email that received a prompt reply. Not my work.

9. Use Bait

A good recruiter writes a message from the prospect's point of of view.

You have to be clear in telling your prospect what they are going to get (what’s in it for them) by joining this company. Buying your product. Or by subscribing or following you.

You are providing the bait by saying things like "if you sign up" or "by taking this role" _________ is what you could gain from it.

It’s as simple as what’s in it for them.

As a recruiter or sales person, providing the bait is your job. It is easy to add many things to a message and fail to let the reader taste the bait.

Imagine yourself fishing. And casting a hook into the water without baiting it.

That is what most cold emails look like.

10. Call To Action

Give a clear call to action.

I wrote messages early in my career that were unclear as to what was going to happen next.

What I wanted them to do (if they were interested) was missing.

  • I didn’t ask a question they had to respond to.
  • Tell them what to do if they were interested.
  • I didn’t push them towards a meeting.
  • Or how to find out more information.

I didn’t ask them to do anything. So they did nothing.

End your message with a clear call to action, if you want people to act.

“in order to buy this product send a payment to”

“to find out more information visit this website”

“to take the next step....”

It can be as simple as a question.

11. Go Pro

What I mean by going pro, is if you are sending out cold emails in 2015 your online presence and LinkedIn profile should be amazing.

You have a solid photo. And your profile is complete.

If I’m a decision maker I should be able to browse your profile in 10 seconds and tell what you’re about.

I shouldn’t have to read through a bunch of rubbish or misspelled words. I don't want to sift through what looks like your College resume.

That’s not how I want to waste my time. And your prospects don’t either.

If you are cold emailing me I want to be able to quickly:

  1. tell who you work for
  2. establish credibility
  3. how can you help me?

Use a pro email address. Sending cold emails from your personal email account is a rookie move.

Have a simple signature at the bottom of your message with your contact information and a way to find out more about you.

Don’t waste time in your message telling prospects about yourself. They don't care.

Everyone is capable of scrolling to the bottom and seeing your title and clicking a link to (proof you are a real person) visit your LinkedIn account, or Twitter profile.

12. Goals

Great salespeople and recruiters have message goals. In the past, I had a goal that every cold message I sent would get a response. That’s a terrible goal.

I failed at it miserably.

Set your big goal as getting a meeting. But use smaller goals to keep you going.

I use these.

Goal #1 Get a response (even if it’s a no).

Goal #2 Start a conversation.

Goal #3 Develop a relationship.

I assign point values to each. Make it a game.


Stop Hurting Yourself

Improving cold emails wouldn't be complete without breaking the habits.

Occasionally we need to be reigned back in. The way a coach disciplines a star player. It makes us better.

I mean this in the nicest way possible.


1. Using templates

A template is the fastest, easiest, way to get your message deleted.

Focus on the things a template doesn’t allow you to do. Like personalizing your message.

2. Being clueless

Don’t be clueless about technology.

Especially if the word “technical” is in your job title. Don’t play the dummy card about technology.

Take advantage of platforms like Udacity and Udemy.

3. Including a job description

If you are recruiting someone do not to include a job description in your first message. You don’t know if now is the right time.

There are so many things you don't know, yet.

So don’t do it.

That would be like going to a speed dating event with a wedding ring. It doesn’t make sense.

4. Asking prospects to pimp out their networks

Doing this signaled to people that I was bad at my job.

Can you help me?

What if your prospect turned the tables on you and asked you to help them write code or to troubleshoot a database?

Don’t start a conversation by asking for something.

5. Asking for help filling your role

This also shows your level of incompetence.

6. Wasting time describing your company

If you’re a small company no one has heard of it’s OK to include a short sentence.

I don’t expect recruiters or salespeople from Google to say “we work at a large search company based in Mountain View, CA”.

That is a bush league move.

Long winded emails about your obscure businesses fail to do the one thing they are designed to.

Tell the prospect how you, your product, or service can help them.

7. Discussing numbers in your first email

For sales people this means you don’t talk pricing in your first message.

If you’re a recruiter, you probably don’t want to talk salary in your introductory email.

Life decisions are based on many factors. Yes salary and compensation is important, but only after a lot of other needs are being met and have lined up.

Start the conversation and if salary comes up table it by providing some insight into the range.

Move forward and start working on finding out the “little things” and ensure they line up.

8. Sending look at ME! emails

Effective cold emails are not self focused.

“We’ve raised over $75m in funding from Google, Facebook, BMW, ADT and other venture investors”.  

No one likes Bragging Bruce.

9. Relying on LinkedIn messages

Don’t rely on LinkedIn messages. They are a tool and can be effective at times.

Also use email and other sites that allow you to access prospects quickly.

10. Playing the numbers game

Don’t send mass emails to thousands of In-mails to unqualified prospects.

Take your time while prospecting.

Find what you feel like are qualified prospects. And focus on these prospects to convert them to the next step of your process.

Start and end with quality. Kick the "pray and spray" habit.


- - - 

Understanding people and communication styles is not a subject you can master by reading a post like this one.

Mastery of a subject takes action, practice, testing, and countless hours of study to refine your approach. 

I hope you ruin your cold emails in a good way. 

Suggested Blog Post: What It Takes To Be A Great Recruiter

About The Author:

Clinton Buelter blogs about recruiting at He’s a tech recruiter turned entrepreneur. With more than six years of recruiting experience, starting at a staffing agency and working his way into technical recruitment for software companies like VMware and Glassdoor.

(Photo by zubrow)

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