While the CalJobs page on Callisto always has over 4000 job listings at a time, there are many hidden internships out there that will never be seized unless you send a “cold email”. A cold email is what I like to call an email you send to a general contact email of a specific company such as firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com that you probably found on the company’s website. After sending my first (unsuccessful) batch of cold emails my freshman year seeking a summer internship, I have come a long way to my most recent achievement of landing my dream summer internship by sending a cold email this last December.
The art of cold emailing requires particular attention to detail, and these specifics all link back to 1) what you say and 2) how you say it. There are a few key elements to pay attention to:
The Subject Line
The subject line of an email seems like such a trivial thing, but it can actually make a significant impact on the success of your cold email. It is the first thing someone reads, and these days it often dictates how the reader prioritizes the email. The most effective subject line strikes a happy medium between sounding way too vague and way too specific. If you write a very ambiguous, conspicuous subject line like “Hello” or “To Whom it May Concern” there is a chance the employer will not even open your email. After all, there are many email spammers these days that even act like colleagues or business partners. If you write an overly specific subject line, however, such as “Resume submission for possible PR internship with Pixar”, there will almost no need to open your email because the reader already knows exactly what you are asking for. When you send a cold email, the chances the reader will be able to immediately offer you an interview is low, so they may leave it unread and let it move down the inbox until they forget about it. As such, you want to leave at least a little information out of the subject line to give the reader a reason to even open it. Writing a direct subject line like “Inquiry about Summer Internship Opportunity” is usually a safe choice.
In my opinion, the ideal way to write the content of a cold email is to write a “teaser” of your cover letter. You want to introduce yourself by giving a snapshot list of your best qualifications, and you also want to talk about why you are emailing specifically THIS company. The goal is to communicate the fact that you are qualified, but in the most concise way possible. It is also important to communicate why you believe you are a perfect fit for their company. Remember that many employers have limited time to skim your email (if they open it!), and also keep in mind that it is a major turn off if your email is obviously a mass email you have been sending any and every company.
A key trick about the content of the “cold email” is not sending out your resume before you hear back from the employer. Oftentimes students on the internship hunt will send out their resume to over 20 employers and hear no word back. This is most likely because the next step is to give out an interview, and most employers are not ready to give out interviews at any time on any day. If you mention that you’d be happy to send over a resume, the employer has a much easier task of asking you to send your resume if there is an opportunity available. The bonus of this situation is that you hear back from an individual, which will allow you to follow up in the future after you send in your resume.
As always, patience is a virtue. While follow-up is important, it is also essential to remain patient throughout the entire application process. My advice is to wait at least one full week before following up; the longer you wait, the more it is their fault for not responding rather than yours for being overeager. It may also work well to switch between modes of communication when following up—first calling the office to follow up and then sending an email as a second follow-up can give you the opportunity to feel out what is the most effective way to reach the employer. I would say after the third follow-up, it is likely that the opportunity was not to be. If this is the case, focus your efforts somewhere else—try and try again!
Post by Claire Lee, 3rd Year Business Administration Major at Haas