Dear stranger who just barged into my inbox,
I’m sure you didn’t wake up intending to ruin an otherwise pleasant morning of email. I didn’t mind that you asked someone you’ve never met for career advice, a job, and funding for your startup. What irked me was the way you asked.
Although we’ve never interacted, you seemed pretty comfortable with me, so I thought I’d return the favor. Here’s what rubbed me the wrong way and what you might’ve done differently…
1. A series of formative events between the ages of 7 and 43 transformed my worldview in the following ways…
Dude. Asking strangers to read your entire life story might not be the best way to convey your judgment, your ability to synthesize, or your respect for their time. Write me a few sentences, not a novel.
Here’s how one reader immediately got my attention:
As you said, helping others drives our success. I am writing you this email to drive your success by hoping you would help me :)
I am very interested in your work and have read every single word you wrote. i would love to have the opportunity to work with you in any possible way.
2. Here are some times when I’m free for our video call…
I’m getting the sneaking suspicion that you have a sense of entitlement. What gave you the idea that I owe you my time? Taker alert!
I would've appreciated it if you asked if I’m willing to connect—and what medium would be most convenient for me. (A hint: it’s email. I can answer it on my own time.)
If you’re the one asking, I’m most likely to say yes on my terms, not yours.
3. Why should I read your book?
I want to let you in on a little secret—there’s a revolutionary new technology called Google. I’m not a door-to-door salesman. It would’ve taken you less time to run a search than it did to reach out to me.
If you reach out again, show me that you’ve done your homework. Here’s how to do it—the best cold email I received this year:
I am a big fan and follower of your research and the transformative work it is doing to provide data-driven answers to questions about generosity, non-conformity, and self-understanding, previously thought to be unanswerable in a scientific way.
I would be honored to be considered for a position as a research intern for the summer of 2021. Attached is my resume for your consideration. I would welcome the opportunity to meet or to speak with you about your work and how I can contribute.
In your Armchair Expert interview, you emphasize the value in seeking out criticism from friends and colleagues. How can I be more effective in a “cold” email?
She joined our research team and did a stellar job. A few weeks ago, I wrote her a recommendation letter to Harvard.