How on earth would you go about applying for a job at a company that’s not hiring? Well, that’s when a cold-contact cover letter comes in to play. In this short guide, you’ll discover how to create an outstanding cold-contact cover letter to ensure businesses can’t refuse your application, even when they’re not looking to hire!
What’s a cold-contact cover letter?
Cover letters are essentially a letter of introduction to the job you’re applying for. It complements your CV and goes into more detail about your skills, experience and ambitions, and offers an insight into your personality.
Typically you’d write a cover letter because you’ve seen a job advertised and you want to apply, right? Well, what about if a company isn’t advertising jobs, but you want to inquire about potential availabilities. That’s when a cold-contact cover letter comes into play. The aim is to sell yourself for a position that may not exist yet so that when an opportunity does arise, you’re the first person the recruiter thinks of.
Cold-contact cover letters can also be labelled as letters of inquiry, letters of interest, speculative cover letters or prospecting cover letters.
Is it worth it?
If you’ve tried everything to get a job and you’re still having no luck you may choose to hand out your CV to a few companies just in case they have some positions opening up that would suit you. Also, there may be a company or two that you want to work for, but they’re not hiring, so you choose to send a CV their way just in case.
These are both examples of cold-contact, but sending a CV alone isn’t enough to secure you a potential position; you need a cover letter to sell yourself effectively, too.
When writing a cover letter in response to a job ad, you’d use the job description to make sure you’re highlighting the skills and experience they’re after. Cold-contact cover letters are much trickier because you don’t have the luxury of the job description to guide you; instead, you have to assume you know what the company needs and prove that you can offer it.
Cover letters can take lots of time to carefully craft, but cold-contact cover letters may take even longer. Therefore, it’s best to stick with one or two companies that you want to work for and aim for them.
Do your research!
If you do decide to write a cold-contact cover letter, it’s essential that you do your research properly. You need to be sure that the company you’re approaching will be able to utilise someone with your skills and abilities; it’s no good talking about how you’ve got plenty of experience within construction if you’re planning to send your cover letter and CV to a PR firm.
So, when you’re researching the company, make sure you know exactly what they do and how they operate, so you can explain why you’d be such a good fit. Also, research their leading competitors and any latest news trends related to the sector to highlight that you’re a professional in the know.
It’s also extremely important to research who your CV and cover letter should be sent to. You might find a company address or a general recruitment email address, but you should look for a specific person to send it to – that way it’s less likely to get lost in the junk mail!
Keep an eye out for the head of recruitment; they’re the one you want to send your documents too; the personal touch makes a great first impression and lets them know you’ve done your research.
How do I write one?
Below is a template of the basic format of a cold-contact cover letter. It’s pretty much identical to any other cover letter, except you need to use your knowledge of the company and sector and your general initiative to craft it, rather than a job description.
[Address Line 1]
[Address Line 2]
[Address Line 3]
[Address Line 4]
Subscribe for weekly newsletters, written by our career experts
You have successfully subscribed to the Career Advice newsletter
Your opening paragraph should be ready to hook the reader. Begin with a bold statement relaying exactly why you’d be a valuable asset to the company and why you want to work for them. Be clear in the fact that you’re going to make their company so much better, rather than suggesting that the company is going to help you.
Paragraphs 2 & 3:
This is your chance to share your skills relevant to the role you have in mind. You MUST use your experience to back this up, or your claims won’t be credible. Also, make sure these claims relate to the company’s needs and goals, or they simply won’t want to know – this is why research is so important! Now would also be a good time to mention any connections you may have with the company, but make sure your connection is comfortable with the mention first.
At this point, you need to address a call to action. Tell them that your CV is attached and request an interview, phone call, or meeting. You might even go small-scale and ask if the company is soon to be at any job fairs.
Yours sincerely,[Your name]
Hard copy or email?
The template above is for a hard copy of a cold-contact cover letter, in that it’s a formal letter designed to be posted! You might find that sending an email is a preferred or a more convenient form of contact for the head of recruitment though – and it’s probably easier to find their email address!
So, there are only a few minor changes to the format if you’re sending this cover letter via email. Firstly, you can remove the company address and your personal address. You might also want to consider changing the sign-off to something a little less formal such as ‘kind regards’ or ‘best wishes’.
Secondly, you need to come up with a subject line for the email. It could be something as simple as ‘inquiry for a sales role’, or something more daring like ‘want to hire someone who can increase sales by 20%?’.
Another great thing about sending an electronic copy is that you can attach links! Believe us; if a recruiter spots a link, they’re going to click on it, so why not use this to your advantage? Include your LinkedIn URL, and if your Twitter is an extension of your professional brand, include that as well.
Also, if you’ve got your website, blog, or any other type of online portfolio, tack that on too. These links should be placed neatly under your sign-off to create a professional looking signature.
Our 5 top tips
- You MUST find out who you’re contacting. Otherwise, you’re likely to be ignored. If you absolutely can’t find a relevant name to address the letter to, then change the salutation to ‘To Sir/Madam’ and the sign-off to ‘Yours faithfully’.
- Be creative in your opening. You can’t just say that you’re looking for a job within the company because it’s related to the career you hope to have. You need to wow the recruiter.
- Let your personality shine through. The point of a cover letter is so recruiters can get to know you in more detail. So while it’s important to be professional, don’t be afraid to explain things with a touch of character.
- Include a call to action. You need to prompt some form of contact or response as it’s just too easy for a recruiter you ignore you.
- Keep it short and easy to read. Of course, you want to squeeze all your best bits into the letter, but you need to write concisely and effectively. It should be no longer than an A4 page, and don’t worry if it’s less!
Example of a cold-contact cover letter
Below is an example of a cold-contact cover letter for someone seeking a sales position.
123 Any Way
01234 567 890
123 Any Way
1st January 2000
The information displayed on your website suggests that you are an extremely progressive company with an eye for detail in the property sector and that is exactly why I am interested in working for you. With my expert knowledge of six years working in sales, I believe I can assist the company to evolve into the leading brand.
I am currently working at a construction company as a sales manager. In this role, I act as a mentor for a team of twelve and frequently monitor performance to generate sales within the field on a daily basis, in addition to keeping our sales and expenditure forecasts on target. I oversee a lot of the strategic movement within the sales department, too, and as a result of my open-minded approach, I have exceeded the company’s ambitious sales targets by 20% year on year.
Not only do I have an indispensable skill set for sales and management, but I also have experience in the construction and property market. After graduating with an upper-second class degree in Planning and Real Estate, I have spent my career observing and identifying the performance of leading brands within construction and property. With my unparalleled industry insights, I have been extremely successful in securing sales and helping companies to the forefront of the market.
I would greatly appreciate the chance to arrange an interview to discuss potential job opportunities and the contributions I could make to the company. Please find my CV enclosed for your reference. I look forward to hearing from you.
Related Career Advice articles
Write a cover letter for all speculative job applications
Learning how to write a speculative cover letter successfully can really pay off if you are looking to switch jobs or gain a step up in your career path. It shows you are pro-active, keen and can even get you considered for roles that are not advertised yet. Getting the tone of a cover letter right, especially a speculative one, takes a lot of consideration. This article help you to:
- Address the letter to the right person
- Format it correctly
- Say why you are a good candidate for the company, the position or the department.
Applying for a job without a formal invitation to do so does not mean that you are being presumptuous, so go for it!
Who to address a prospective cover letter to
When you are writing a cover letter for speculative application, it is advisable to address it to an individual if possible. Avoid sending a speculative cover letter to the HR department of a company or the sales director since these are likely to get nowhere.
Find out who the hiring decision maker might be in your field and address that individual directly. This may mean phoning to find out or looking up the relevant personnel details from the corporate website.
Bear in mind that addressing a prospective cover letter to the right person has twin benefits. Firstly, it will help you to get noticed by the right person. Secondly, it will show that you have done your research and this will demonstrate your professionalism in its own right.
How to format a speculative application
By setting out your cover letter formally, you stand a better chance of your speculative application succeeding. This means adding your name, address and the date on the top right and the addressee's details below this, on the left. Begin with 'Dear...' and end with 'Yours faithfully,' which is the correct format if you don't happen to already know the person you are writing to.
In the body of the letter, add three or four paragraphs. Begin by explaining that you are looking for work and try to be as specific about the sort of work you want, ideally highlighting why this means you have identified the company you are writing to as a potential employer.
Make a quick summary of your skills and what benefits you could bring to the organisation or company you are writing to. Separate each paragraph with a line break to make them more accessible and easy to read. Choose a professional looking font and avoid emoticons and slang.
What to say about yourself
When you are being speculative, it is best to keep your options open, so don't focus on one particular skill or qualification. Showing that you are an all-rounder can be much more effective than being a specialist.
Key information, such as stating that you are a second-jobber looking for career progress, can be helpful. These details are a chance to say that you are ambitious – something that most prospective employers want to hear. Make sure that you include a preferred means of contact, ideally your phone number or email address.
Don't sit back and think the job is done once your cover letter has been created and sent off. Follow up any that you send with a phone call after about one week. Even if your letter hasn't been read yet, this can help to personalise your contact and increases the chances of a positive outcome.