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How to Write a Cold Email for an Unadvertised Job

It’s estimated that between 60 and 80 percent of open jobs are never publicly advertised. This means that you could be scouring every job board and following dozens of employers on LinkedIn and never hearing about your dream job. 

The good news is it’s possible to learn about unadvertised positions even if you don’t have an “in” with the company. You can do it by writing a cold email to the hiring manager. 

If you don’t do it correctly, a cold email can backfire. However, if you do your homework and prepare a properly written message, it could help you discover a great position that fits your skills without any competition from public job sites. We’ll explain how to do it. 

What is an unadvertised job?

An unadvertised job is a position that’s not publicly announced via traditional job posting channels like job boards and social media platforms. Unadvertised positions might be jobs that the company intends to fill internally, niche roles that are best filled via a specialized search, or leadership positions where the company doesn’t want to publicize that there’s about to be a vacancy.

What is a cold email?

A cold email is one that’s sent without a prior relationship to the recipient. Cold emails are most often used in a sales setting to pursue new business leads, but they can be useful in any situation where you’re looking to make inroads without a preexisting personal connection. 

Why it’s important to send cold emails when job searching

The average job posting receives anywhere from 100 to 200 applications. If you only apply to publicly posted jobs, you’re up against some stiff competition. 

Even if you’re a very strong candidate, you’re at a disadvantage sheerly from a numbers standpoint. If there are 200 applications on the table, it’s impossible for a hiring manager to give every single one of them equal consideration. 

You open a new range of possibilities by sending cold emails about potential jobs. There’s a chance you’ll hear about an upcoming position and have the opportunity to be considered first before other candidates apply. 

If there aren’t any positions available, you might strike up a relationship with a hiring manager that could lead to an opportunity down the road. There’s even a chance that your especially strong resume will prompt a manager to hire you even if they don’t have a specific job opening because of what you could bring to the table for the company. 

When should you send a cold email about a job

When you’ve received advance notice about an opening

Your cold email might not be 100% cold. Sometimes, you’ll have a good idea that a position is about to become available because you heard about it from someone in your network. 

Sending a cold email is a great way to get a jump on being considered and potentially even get the company to interview you before posting the job anywhere.

When you’re especially interested in the company

Most people have a few ‘dream employers’–companies where they’d take any job just to be part of the team. If you have a dream employer or two, writing a cold email is a way to get your foot in the door, if even just to begin building rapport and put your name on their radar. 

When you can make a strong case for your skills

Top employers always look for standout talent even when they don’t have a position. It’s not unheard of for a company to create a position specifically for an amazing candidate that they want to pin down. 

For this to happen, you need to be able to sell your skills and make a strong case for how they’d benefit the company. 

What to include in a cold email for an unadvertised job

A concise introduction

Tell the recipient who you are and why you’re writing to them. If you have a mutual connection with the recipient, mention that person at the top of your letter.

Your elevator pitch

Summarize your skills and where you see yourself fitting in at the company.

Your professional highlights

Share one to two of your top career accomplishments, making them as relevant to this employer as possible.

What’s in it for the company

Give specific examples of the positive impacts you could make.

How to learn more

Help the reader take the next step if they’re interested in getting to know you better, like attaching your resume, linking to your online portfolio, or inviting them to call you.

What you should omit

A long-winded message

You should be appreciative of the fact that the recipient is reading an unsolicited email. Be respectful of their time by keeping your message brief and to-the-point.

Sample cold emails to inquire about a job

Mr. Oxford, 

My name is Beatrice Greene and I’m reaching out because I think my PR skills could be an asset for Hunter College. Marjorie Smith gave me your contact information; she and I know each other through a local young professionals group. 

I’m a seasoned publicist with extensive experience driving positive media coverage for educational organizations. My work for Nassau Community College and Brooklyn Day School has resulted in placements with news outlets like The New York Times, New York Magazine, and Forbes. 

Hunter College has a long history of expanding educational opportunities for students from diverse backgrounds. I believe my professional experience coupled with my personal experience as an alumna of a public city college make me uniquely qualified to highlight the school’s accomplishments on a national stage. 

My resume is attached, and you can view my coverage portfolio here. I’d welcome the opportunity to discuss employment with you further. I can be reached at 212-222-1111


Beatrice Greene

If you’re not sure who to direct your email to, LinkedIn is a good starting point–search for ‘[company name] hiring manager.’ You can also direct your email to an internal recruiter or a manager within the department you’re interested in. 

It doesn’t hurt to include a line at the top of your message asking to be forwarded to the correct recipient, i.e. ‘If you’re not the appropriate recipient for this inquiry, would you mind pointing me to the right person?’

As long as the rest of your message is professional and relevant, most people will be happy to pass it along.