An Etiquette Guide to Cold Reach-Outs

Woman in business suit on smartphone indoors

You’ve probably been told over and over how important it is to network, for a variety of reasons. This fact is absolutely true, but becomes harder when you can’t get a personal introduction to someone you want in your network. At that point, you have to find another way to connect with them, potentially through cold reach-outs. 

A cold reach-out is when you send someone a message asking them to connect with you despite having no former relationship with them. Oftentimes, the motive behind this kind of message is the prospect of a new job and it’s typically done through LinkedIn, direct messages on social media platforms, email, and online community groups/boards. This method of connection is low risk and high reward, but in order to get that reward, you need to write a message  that is both professional and respectful of the person’s time you’re reaching out to. 

Cold Reach Out-01

There isn’t a perfect formula for writing a cold reach-out that is “100% guaranteed” to get a response. Even if you get everything just right, the person you’re contacting may not even open the message, and that is entirely out of your control. That being said, it’s still important to take the time to mindfully craft your note so that if the person you’re contacting does open the message, you have a higher chance of getting a response. Here are some pointers.

Tailor it to the contact

When you draft your message, remember to keep it short and to the point. Everyone is busy and no one wants to spend five minutes reading a paragraphs-long message from a stranger who is asking for a favor, no matter how qualified they might be. Stick to a target of no more than 100 words and pack as much punch into them as you can. 

Additionally, a cold reach-out is not the time for a quick, generic copy/paste message. How you word your message should be different based on who you’re contacting and what you’re contacting them about.  

Connecting with an employee at a company that you want to work

Having a connection, any connection, at a company you want to work for is always helpful because they may be willing to refer you for a job even if it’s not in their department. However, if that’s your motive, don’t frame a cold reach-out that way.  Write your note so that it is specific, informing and thoughtful. 


Hi Jill, 

My name is Katie and I work for ACME as a Senior Marketing Manager. Your name has popped up in my network, so I thought I’d introduce myself and connect. I see that you work for CompanyX, I’ve heard a lot about them and recently read an article on their new technology release. It seems like a really great place to work. 

I hope to connect with you soon. Thanks!


In this cold reach out, you’ve introduced yourself, shared your area of expertise and mentioned their company in a way that shows you’ve read up on them without begging them to help you get a foot in the door. 

Connecting with a recruiter or hiring manager at a company you’d like to work for

If you’re sending a cold reach-out to a hiring manager or recruiter with the hope of getting some inside information for upcoming openings and opportunities, keep the note thoughtful. You can do this by looking at their profile to see if you have any overlapping interests to bring up or by expressing curiosity about the company in a way that shows you’ve done your research, without looking like you’re begging for a job. 


Hi Jill, 

My name is Katie and I work in marketing at ACME. I came across your name when I was looking into CompanyX and noticed you volunteer with the same organization I do, and I’d love to connect. I look forward to hearing back from you!


The big takeaway here is that you showed interest in the company without outright asking for a job. If you end up connecting, you can send a message later that more directly expresses your interest. One important thing to note: if they don’t end up responding or connecting with you, don’t consistently follow-up, just let it be. 

Connecting with a high-level hopeful connection

Director and C-Level staff members are busy, so it’s best to manage your expectations from the start when sending a cold reach-out. The reward is high, though, so it’s definitely still worth trying. When drafting your note, keep it short and don’t ask anything of the person you’re writing to. Don’t be afraid to throw in a little subtle flattery while you’re at it, too.


Hi Jill, 

My name is Katie and I’m a Marketing Manager at ACME. I am reaching out to connect because I really admire the way you’ve built your career over the years before landing at CompanyX, which is a fantastic organization. As a fellow woman in marketing, your growth is both impressive and inspiring, and I’d love to have you as part of my network. 


In this note, you still mention the company but the primary focus is on them instead of where they work. The key here is that you’re trying to add them to your network because of who they are as an individual rather than what they can do for you in your job search. You’re not asking anything of them, and that’s going to make them much more receptive to your request to connect.

Dos and don’ts of cold reach-outs

Cold Reach-out Best Practices

👍 Do:

  • Interact with their posts on LinkedIn before sending the cold reach-out because it will help make your name more familiar and show you are interested in them and their thoughts
  • Try to add value to them in some way instead of just asking them to give you, a stranger, a referral or some of their time
  • Find a way to connect personally through a shared interest, mutual connection or acknowledgment of their work
  • Be specific about the field you work in and/or are interested in, expressing interest in several unrelated departments demonstrates your excitement about working for the company, not what you can do for the company
  • Stay optimistic, just because you don’t hear back from someone doesn’t mean you won’t hear back from anyone

👎 Don't:

  • Don’t ask to connect with someone to learn more about their company - do that research on your own time
  • Don’t come across as needy or desperate by following up multiple times if you never received an initial response
  • Don’t take it personally if you don’t hear back, it’s not a reflection of your worthiness as a potential job candidate, it’s probably that they didn’t have the time to invest in a new connection

Moving Forward

Sending a cold reach-out has the potential to be really beneficial but remember, while carefully wording the message can certainly increase your chances of getting a response, it’s hard to grab someone’s attention when they don’t know who you are. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t hear back because there are plenty of other ways to form these kinds of connections. Still, go ahead and send the cold reach-out because what do you have to lose? Low risk, high reward.

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