How To Do Cold Outreach (And Actually Get a Response)

By Claire Wasserman

Before you reach out, clarify your goals, and work backward from what you’re looking for. Ideally, you won’t have to do cold outreach and can get what’s called a “warm” introduction instead.  Go through your connections first – is there anyone that they’re connected to that you’d like to be introduced to? (Don’t always go for the CEO, someone just a few levels above you are more likely to respond.) What do you have to lose? 

Speaking of which, there’s research that shows women feel they need to meet 100% of the criteria to apply for a job, while men usually apply even if they meet less than 60%. Well, what happens when you don’t apply for something? You don’t get it. 100% guaranteed.

You should always, always, always apply. 

 For any requirements, you might not have, have some reasoning prepared as to why and how you’re still a good fit for the company. You could give an example of how you’re a fast learner, or how your soft skills will contribute to the company culture. Either way, go for it, you literally have nothing to lose.

Here at 8 steps to doing cold outreach:

  1. Express something that you have in common. Whatever research you did on them, mention it both in the body of the email and the subject line. For example, “I saw you speak at [INSERT NAME] conference,” or “I read this article about you.” If you have a mutual acquaintance, put that in the subject line.
  2. Make it personal. From the research you did about them, mention something that inspired you to reach out. Flattery never hurts (as long as it’s genuine.)
  3. Be compelling. Get them excited by telling them (briefly) about things you’ve done in the past that are relevant to your outreach, the origin of your passion for the subject matter, and express a desire to learn from them.
  4. Be specific. Send them no more than three things that you want to learn from them, making it clear why you specifically reached out to them (it’ll show that you did your homework). That way, they know how they can help you.
  5. Respect their time.  Give them three options: to meet in person (offer to buy them coffee), hop on a call, or continue by email. When you suggest a call, suggest 20 minutes so they don’t feel like you’re asking too much of them (If the two of you click, you’ll probably get more time.)
  6. Be (politely) persistent.  If you don’t hear back, wait a week to reach out again. Say something: “I’m sure your inbox is really full. I just wanted to make sure I didn’t fall through the cracks…” and then reiterate what you originally wrote.
  7. Follow up. When you finally do connect, whether online, on the phone, or in person, send a prompt follow-up note thanking them and letting them know what resonated with you from the conversation.
  8. Keep them posted. Send articles, etc. –  things you think they’d find interesting plus an update or two about you. For example, forward articles you think they’d find interesting, or even potential speaking opportunities at conferences or on podcasts. Also, include an update about you, especially if it pertains to something that was discussed at your original meeting.

If you’re consistently receiving no’s or not hearing back, you might want someone to read over your outreach and give you feedback. In short: make things personal, but don’t take them personally. This is business.


With more people getting laid off every day, it’s crucial that you be prepared for whatever happens. Our Get the Job Master Course is available for on-demand access and will give you everything you need to stand out and get hired.

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