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How to Cold Email for an Internship

How to Cold Email for an Internship: 8 Steps to Make It Happen

by | Apr 7, 2020 | Internships

Sending a cold email for any opportunity can feel awkward. Many people aren’t comfortable being direct about their desires, and some might even feel like they’re being intrusive or rude by asking for what they want. The good news is that cold emailing can be an effective way to obtain both internship opportunities and job opportunities. And it isn’t hard to master how to cold email for an internship with some simple steps.

Step-by-Step Tips for Cold EmailingHow to Cold Email for an Internship: Woman looking at her inbox

Although it may not feel natural at first, once you understand the basics of how to cold email for an internship, you’ll be able to do it like a pro. Here are eight steps to help you land that internship.

1. Set Up a Professional Email Account

This likely goes without saying, but it’s essential to have an email account that looks professional. If you’ve been using your childhood cat’s nickname as your email address since middle school, it’s time for an upgrade.

Set up a new email account to use for professional or educational connections moving forward. Gmail and Outlook are great choices, and they’re free to set up. When creating your new email address, go for something simple and straightforward.

Consider a combination of your name or initials to make the email unique. You might also need to include numbers if other options are taken. Also, be sure to use appropriate capitalization when you enter your name for the account as it will appear in someone’s inbox exactly as you’ve typed it.

Once your email account is set up, you’re ready to begin cold emailing.

2. Choose Your Recipient

When it comes to knowing how to cold email for an internship, the first thing you need to know is who you’re sending it to. The rule of thumb is to send it to a specific person. Never send your cold email to a generic email address that starts with something like [email protected] or [email protected]

If you already have a contact at the company, this is a good starting point. Even if this person has no role in hiring or making decisions about internships, he or she will likely be able to connect you with the right person who does.

If you don’t have an existing relationship with anyone in the company, do your research to figure out who the best person is to contact. Usually, this person will be a recruiter or hiring manager.

Start on the company website. If you aren’t able to find someone listed on the site, check LinkedIn or other social media channels. Often, the person in charge of hiring also does outreach on social media so they may be easy to find there.

Google search is another tool that might be helpful. A simple query for the company name and the term “hiring manager” or “recruiter” can lead you to the appropriate contact.

After you figure out who you’re going to send your email to, you’re ready to start crafting your email.

3. Write a Specific Subject Line

A successful cold email begins with the subject line. This is often overlooked or sometimes thrown in as an afterthought. However, the subject line is truly your first impression, so consider it carefully. A subject line is what a recruiter or hiring manager will first see when your email appears in their inbox.

A strong subject line is direct and specific. Rather than writing “Internship opportunities,” add the company name so it looks more customized and personal. To make it even more specific, you might even mention a specific project that they’re currently working on.

For example, if you were emailing a recruiter for the Houghton Company and you were interested in their new CAD program for prosthetic limb design, a stronger subject line would be “CAD Design Internship Opportunities at the Houghton Company.”

4. Address Your Recipient Correctly

Knowing how to cold email for an internship includes addressing your email recipient by name and appropriate title. It can take a little more sleuthing to figure out if someone is a Mr., Ms., or Dr. However, this is time well spent because it shows that you have done your research and genuinely care about making a personal connection.

Just as you did when deciding who to email, start by checking the company website for clues. Then expand your search to LinkedIn or Google if necessary. LinkedIn might tell you the level of education that someone has achieved, so if they have a Ph.D. or other doctoral degree, the title of Dr. is probably appropriate. Otherwise, Mr. or Ms. are usually safe bets.

That said, it’s worth noting that many organizations today pride themselves on fostering a more casual company culture. Research the company’s site and social channels to get a sense of their tone and attitude.

One clue is how they address one another in social media posts, especially if the post is written by someone lower on the corporate totem pole. If a new hire is calling an executive by his or her first name and this seems to be the norm, there’s a good chance it’s OK to use the first name of a hiring manager or recruiter as well.

Whatever you do, avoid writing “To Whom It May Concern.” This comes off as generic and can indicate that you didn’t think it was worth your time or energy to figure out who you’re contacting. Addressing your recipient correctly sets the tone for the rest of your email.

5. Craft a Meaningful Introduction

When it comes to writing your cold email, think of it as a shortened version of a personalized cover letter.

To begin, you’ll want to include specifics that show you have thoroughly researched the company. You should be able to talk about why you’re interested in that particular company in a way that will stand out against other queries.

A strong introduction will include two things:

  • Your specific interest in the company
  • Your clearly stated desire to intern with them

When you state your desire to intern with the company, be sure to include your available time frame. If you’re only able to participate in a summer internship, be clear about it. This sets you up to establish a connection in your next paragraph.

Here’s an example of a strong introduction:

“For the past six months, I have closely followed your project to develop new, more responsive prosthetic limbs. I am writing to inquire about summer internship opportunities that might allow me to become involved with this important work.”

6. Create Connections With the Company

After your introductory paragraph, give some brief background about how your life experiences, both professional and academic, lend themselves well to the company. Highlight one or two specific accomplishments and tie them back to current projects with the company.

Doing so establishes that you are a good fit and are committed to a career path that aligns with their goals. Continuing from the example above, a meaningful next paragraph might be:

“I have worked extensively with the CAD technology that is being used to create model limbs. Last summer, I took a CAD class at our local community college and applied my knowledge towards designing and fabricating a prosthetic leg for a local shelter dog. This invention earned me an award at the regional Inventor’s Showcase and motivated me to pursue a career in the industry.”

7. Conclude With a Call to Action

As you wrap up your initial email, include a call to action. This is an invitation to connect so you can discuss the opportunity further. Here’s how you might want to frame it:

“Thank you for taking the time to review my attached resume. I would love to talk further about the opportunities available at [your company]. Please feel free to email me at the address above, or call me at [insert phone number] to arrange a time. I look forward to hearing from you.”

8. Follow Up

It can be discouraging to send out multiple cold emails and never receive a return phone call or email reply, but don’t give up. Sometimes it takes a little more hustle to stand out.

Allow some time to pass after you send your first email. After a week has passed, feel free to follow up again. This could be in the form of another email, or, if you’re feeling bold, you might make a phone call to the person you emailed.

If you choose to call, be sure to check their website and hiring posts online. If they request no phone calls, you need to be respectful of their boundaries and stick with an email.

In your email, introduce yourself and say that you are following up on your email from the previous week and wanted to be sure that he or she had received it. Then, ask if there’s a convenient time that you can schedule a call to further discuss the opportunity.

What If the Company Rejects You?How to Cold Email for an Internship: Woman smiling during an intern interview

If the company is not interested in hiring you as an intern, it’s not the end of the world. There are hundreds of other internship opportunities out there. Simply thank the recruiter politely and get back to your search.

Remember, cold emailing isn’t the only way to connect with a company. You can also use personal connections or take advantage of some of the professional intern matching services available. There is an internship out there for you somewhere, it just might take a little work to find it.

Knowing How to Cold Email for an Internship Is Easier Than You Think

It can feel uncomfortable to directly ask for what you want, but that’s likely because it’s unfamiliar. Once you get a few cold emails under your belt by employing this simple step-by-step approach, it’ll become easier. Remember, you’ll never know if you could have secured the internship of your dreams if you don’t ask.

For more help along the way in your internship search, consider the services of Scholars, which connects you with top companies that are looking to hire entry-level candidates across the country.

About Scholars

Scholars helps companies build engaging candidate experiences at scale. Create personalized journeys for all of your candidates from application through onboarding.

About Scholars

Internships and early-career jobs are unlike any others. They are often accepted months, if not years, in advance of the start date leaving plenty of time for candidates to change their minds and decide to work elsewhere, costing your team time and money.

There are two ways that have been proven to decrease renege rates for any company: keeping candidates engaged by sharing personalized information and helping them make connections with their future teammates. Companies use Scholars to accomplish both of these at scale.