A Comprehensive Guide to Cold Emailing for Internships or Jobs

Have you just graduated from university or college and are now looking for your first job? Maybe you are still in school but want an internship at a prestigious firm to make your resume more attractive.

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On the other hand, you might be an established professional looking for opportunities to grow your career. Whatever the case, you will need connections. And since only the lucky few will know the movers and shakers in top-tier firms, you have to use some innovative ways to connect with these decision makers.

How can you achieve this, while still coming across as professional? Well, the best way to get your foot in the door is through cold email. We have already talked about how cold email is one of the most effective – and affordable – forms of networking. Despite this, it still remains an untapped resource. And even when some hopeful job seekers use it, they do it so poorly that they actually hurt their job prospects instead of improving them.

Cold emailing for internships is a great way to get jobs, receive invaluable career advice, and add some pretty exceptional people to your contact list. The simple fact is that most people are impressed with this kind of initiative.

Let’s face it – there are only so many connections that you can make from your friends and family, especially when you are just starting out. If you can work up the nerve, cold emailing will actually help you build your network without relying solely on your immediate circle or their acquaintances.

Does that mean that it will work all the time? Not at all, unfortunately. But you cannot hold it against the few people who are not going to take the time to connect with a stranger. With that said, it is actually surprising just how often people respond to cold emailing – if it is done right. With a little knowledge, a bit of persistence, and a lot of nerve, you can get people to respond to your cold emails.  Do you want to learn how to cold email for an internship or job? Here is how you can do it – and do it right.

A Comprehensive Guide to Cold Emailing for Internships or Jobs

Table of Contents

Getting the Basics Right: 4 Mistakes to Avoid

Before you send out anything, you have to know what to do and which cold email mistakes to avoid. Let’s dive in:

1. Contacting the wrong person

When it comes to cold emails, research should always be your first step. Studies show that the average executive receives at least 147 emails every single day. That is way too much communication for someone to weed through every day, so you will have to stand out from the crowd. And how can you do that? Your only answer is to pay attention to every single detail and avoid every self-imposed mishap along the way.

Contacting the wrong person is definitely one of the things to avoid. Here is a great real-life example of this scenario.

Let’s say your goal is to join the sales team at XYZ Company. Maybe the person who makes the final hiring decisions for XYZ is the HR Manager, yet you end up sending the email to the Director of Sales. What are the chances of the Sales Director passing along the information to the right decision maker? With the sheer volume of emails these executives get daily, we can safely assume that your email will end up forgotten or in the Trash folder.

In the scenario above, this kind of assumption is an honest mistake that anyone could make – if they did not do their research! Basic fact-finding should always be your first step because it shows that you have taken the time and energy to start off on the right foot. It also helps that research shows the most successful cold emails are heavily customized to their intended recipients.

2. Is that a Template?

In general, the goal of cold emailing is to reach as many people as possible in a very short time. This desire led to the adoption of cold email templates. While this may be a great move for sales and marketing emails, it might not be the best move when it comes to cold email for internship or jobs. This is because your contact list will probably be shorter than the hundreds of prospects marketers want to reach with every campaign.

This is not to say that you cannot use a template when crafting your messages. In fact, here are some great ones that could come in handy. But the point is that you should spend more time to customize your emails to the recipient. Simply stating their name and company is not enough when you are cold emailing for internships.

The fact that you are using a template should not be easy to spot. This single fact will make your emails look “spammy” and turn people off immediately. Instead, take the time to construct your template carefully and be sure to make them as personal and relatable as possible.

3. Why is your Email so Long?

That said, it is always important to remember that cold email is basically unsolicited email. So you have to be considerate and keep your message as short as possible. Ideally, it should not take more than 20 seconds to read. This gives you a very short window to get your point across effectively.

Remember that the whole point of cold emailing is to start a meaningful conversation. If you play your cards right, the first email will not be your only chance to tell a company all about yourself. With this in mind, simply focus on explaining who you are, why you are reaching out, and what value you can offer for the company.

4. Failure to Follow Up

People could fail to respond to your cold email for a number of reasons. Maybe they were busy that day, or you caught them between meetings. But that does not mean that they are not interested. Again, perseverance is key when you are trying to connect through cold email. That is why it is important to reach out again with at least one follow up email.

Cold Email for Internship: The First Step

With these basic rules in mind, you are now ready to start sending out those cold emails.

1. Generate a List

When applying for a job or internship, the first thing many people do is apply directly on the career page on the company’s website. You should consider generic addresses like “careers@xyzcompany” or “recruit@xyzcompany” as a churning black hole where your emails go to die. If you are really passionate about the position, then you must take it a step further.

This is where research comes in, as it will help you compile a list of relevant and promising prospects. Start by looking through the list of alumni at your college or university. LinkedIn is also another great tool for this because it allows you to browse through thousands of potential contacts in an instant. To narrow down your list, you could search for contacts by keyword or even by the company that you are targeting.

While it is a great app for finding professional contacts, LinkedIn is not so effective for messaging. In fact, research shows that a lot of LinkedIn In-Mails are deleted before the prospect opens or reads them. Since executives spend at least six hours every day in their inboxes, you will have a much higher success rate with cold email.

Once you have the names of your potential contacts, do a quick search on Google to find their social media profiles, personal blogs, or any other information that can help you craft a personalized cold email.

2. Search on Google for the Company’s Email Format

Then, you can also search for the email format that the company uses. The three formats that are most commonly used are:

  •    FirstName@xyzcompany.com
  •    FirstName.LastName@company.com
  •    FirstInitialLastName@xyzcompany.com

To simplify things, you can also use tools like RooJet to help you find their current email addresses. The goal here is to make an awesome first impression. Sitting back and hoping your email ends up in the right inbox is definitely not the way to accomplish this.

3. Keep Track of Them

Once you have the names and email addresses down, the next step is to keep track of every interaction. Who have you already contacted with the first email? Who has responded and who do you need to follow up on? Having this information at the tip of your fingers is the only way to run a successful cold email campaign.

You could use a simple worksheet on Excel to do this, but copy-pasting all that information can be tedious and exhausting. A better way to go about it is by using tools like RooJet to automate and keep track of the whole process.

Cold Email for Internship Format

After all the preliminaries, now you are really getting into the meat of things: the email itself. Cold emails have gotten a bad reputation over the years. Some people deliberately misuse them while others genuinely do not know that they are committing some email etiquette sins.

Apart from the basic cold email mistakes that we have already highlighted, it is important to keep your messages as genuine as possible. Remember, the goal is not to overload the recipient with loads of information or go on and on about how great you are. It is to start a meaningful conversation that could potentially lead to some pretty awesome things for you.

That said, here is how you can create the perfect cold email to land you the job or internship that you are angling for:

1. Internship Email Subject Line

A recent study by Fast Company showed that emails which used the right combination of the sender’s name and subject line clinched the highest open rates. So let’s start with the first aspect: the sender name.

Creating a separate email account for all your cold emailing work is a great way to go. This will ensure that your email address is both professional and well-structured to prove that you are not a spammer. Would you open an email from a generic address? Probably not. You also do not want to connect with potential employers from an address like maroon5girl@gmail.com. That might have seemed like a great idea in the sixth grade when you created the account, but it will not go over well in the professional world.

Once you have an appropriate sender name, you can then move on to the subject line. People are more likely to open and read emails which start off with a subject line that makes them curious or provides value. Curiosity will work well when people are not so busy because it will intrigue them and draw them in.

But since that does not happen very often in the business world, a better idea would be to use the more practical approach and start off with a strong value proposition. Craft a subject line that is short, creative, and tells the recipient exactly why they should open and read your cold email. If you are short on inspiration, here are some great examples of cold email subject lines that you can use:

  • Did you know (mention an interesting statistic)?

  • What are your thoughts about (recent relevant article, talk, or industry event)

  • I loved your post/tweet on (mention relevant post on social media)

  • I would love your advice on (mention specific topic)

  • Free for coffee/lunch? (Because everyone loves free things!)

If you would like to see more specific examples of cold email subject lines that will get you results, read all about it in our post here.

2. The Cold Email Body

The biggest mistake you can make while writing the actual email body is to map out your entire life story. No one has the time to read that! And even if they did, who would want to give a virtual stranger that much attention. It might sound a bit harsh, but the truth is that you are reaching out to very busy people. If you have only one chance to impress them (which you probably do), then you had better make it count.

Other than the sheer impracticality of these long emails, such outreach should always be about the recipient. What do they want or need? What are they getting out of this? Yes, you will definitely benefit from their experience, guidance, and time, but you should not be so obvious about it in the email.

Your initial cold email should not be longer than three to four (short) paragraphs. This allows the recipient to read and respond to the message in less than a minute. Here is a breakdown of what each line should look like:

  • Line 1:

    Introduce yourself then mention where you are from and what you are aspiring to do

  • Line 2:

    Briefly, touch on the “excuse” for contact that you used in the subject line. Have the written an article that you loved? What is the highlight of their career that you aspire to? Not only does this show that you did your research, it proves that you actually want to hear about the recipient. It also gives you the perfect “in” to initiate future conversations.

  • Line 3:

    This is where you specify the ask. Do you want to schedule a phone call or meeting? Ensure that what you are after is very clear.

  • Line 4:

    Give a specific timeline for the ask. For example, If you are scheduling a phone call, suggest a specific day and time and ask if that works for the recipient. But bring it up in a way that will not make you seem pushy, cocky or presumptuous

When that is done, simply sign off. If you have done all this correctly, the chances of getting a reply to your cold email are very high.

3. Cold Email for Internship Example

Now, you can start putting all these elements together to create the perfect cold email template. Here is a great one that you can use:

Subject:  Free for coffee?

Hi (Name of Contact),

My name is (Your Name) from (mention your school or current job), and I have just started looking for an internship/new job in (mention the industry).

I have followed your work on (mention specific topic) for a long time. I especially loved your article/post/tweet on (mention specific article).

Can you spare 15 minutes of your time on (select a few dates that are at least two weeks away)? I’d love to buy you coffee at (mention a place that is not too far from their office) and hear about your journey in the (relevant) industry.


(Your Name).

This template works because it is short, gracious, and gets straight to the point. It will take the recipient a short time to read, understand the ask, and respond. Also, it is always a good idea to offer to buy them a meal or beverage because it shows that you appreciate their time.

Chances are this will be the best investment you will ever make because your contact can then offer you invaluable advice or get you in touch with potential employers. It also tends to be the cheapest way to get face time with a big fish. Even the busiest of people appreciate any chance to get out of their office and refresh their minds with a great cup of coffee!

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More Helpful Tips

Phew! Hopefully, you have finally managed to craft a great email that could potentially help you get the job or internship that you want. But don’t go sending it off just yet! Here are some tips that will help you perfect any email for the best results:

1. Proofread it

Always check your emails before sending them. There is no point of going through this whole process to craft an awesome email, only to have it dismissed because of a few spelling or grammatical errors. Check your work!

2. Get a second opinion

We would highly recommend that you get a close friend or family member to read through your first draft. This will help you get a second opinion on what works and what does not, allowing you to fine tune it further.

3. Ask for tips

If you end up having a good rapport with one of your contacts, they could end up being a valuable resource for this. Go ahead and ask them for any tips to improve your cold emails. This could help you up your game even further in subsequent messages with new contacts.

4. Attach a resume

Many professionals like to screen cold emails by checking out the resume, even before scheduling a networking call. So attaching a strong resume from the outset will definitely help improve your chances. If you can, let a professional check your resume. This will give you invaluable insight into how it should be written and formatted for maximum effect.

Following Up the Right Way

It has been a week and they have not gotten back to you: what now? Your first inclination might be to fret or give up because you think the contact has rejected your ask. But that should not be the case.

Instead, simply follow up. You would be surprised to know that most busy people do not reply to cold emails because they just forgot. So following up with another email (on the same thread!) serves to remind them of what you had initially sent.

And since it is just a reminder, there is no need to repeat information they already have. Briefly, ask if they saw your first email, ask if there is anything you can explain further, and reiterate that you would love to talk whenever they can find the time.

Here is what a simple but effective follow-up email should look like:

Hi (Contact Name),

I know you are really busy and my last email probably got buried in your inbox. So I thought I should follow it up with another and give it a little bump to the top of the pile.

If you have any questions or need more information, please let me know.


(Your name).

If that still does not get results, wait another one or two weeks and follow up again. Unless the contact has added you to their spam folder, they will eventually respond! You can stop after three or four follow ups, then try again a few months later, on the same thread.

Is this a little annoying? Yes. But they will definitely admire your patience and persistence, which may just drive them to respond.

Wrapping Up

Generally speaking, sending out cold emails takes a lot of nerve, patience and persistence. A lot of work goes into the process, but the results are worth it. You will be surprised at who you meet and the contacts that you will make in the process. And if you do it all right, the internship or job you have been passionate about will be yours!

Do you have any other tips and tricks to add to our list? Don’t forget to share them with us in the comments below.

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