Tips for Sending Cold (unsolicited) Messages to Professionals

A cold email/message is an unsolicited e-mail/message that is sent to a receiver without prior contact. It could also be defined as the email equivalent of cold calling. (Wikipedia)

We have discussed the benefits of networking extensively on Legally Engaged. An increasingly popular way of networking and reaching out to professionals is by (initially) sending them a cold email or a cold message on LinkedIn.

If done correctly, this could be an effective and hassle free way of establishing connections and creating job or business opportunities.

Below are some tips to assist when crafting unsolicited messages, and increase your chances of getting a (desirable) reply.

1.        The subject line

There are organizations whose Human Resources Department delete (cold) emails that are sent without a subject. Sending an email without a subject shows laziness/a nonchalant attitude, or ignorance/lack of exposure; traits that you do not want to display as a young lawyer, especially when looking for a job.

Always send your messages with an appropriate subject such as “Application for XYZ”, “Request for Assistance with ABC”, etc.

Read your message and summarize its contents in 8 words or less.

2.        Be personal

This is probably the most important tip especially with LinkedIn. We understand that you are trying to contact as many senior colleagues as possible in one week, but copying and pasting the same message to everyone will do you no favours. Prioritize quality over quantity. It is better to send 5 well-written messages that are likely to be read, than to send 18 poorly written messages.

Always address the person by their own name before you begin your message. Never just begin with your text. Also, where applicable, write out the name of their firm, instead of just stating “I would like to intern at your firm

Readers can tell when your message has been copied and sent to several people; it shows laziness and lack of eagerness on your part. If you want the opportunity badly enough, you should be able to put in that little extra effort to make your message more ‘warm’ than cold.

Also, if you are hoping to secure a job, resist the urge to talk too extensively about yourself or your qualifications, and focus more on what you can do for the organization. Essentially, less “I” “and “me” and more “you” and “your”

3.        Be polite

You may be surprised that this is on the list, but in our experience, there are many incidents where students and young lawyers have been impolite, knowingly or unknowingly, when sending a cold message.

Since you do not have a pre-existing cordial relationship with the recipient, stick to professional greetings such as Dear Mr. XYZ or Good Afternoon ABC. It may turn out that the person is not particular about formalities, but it is always better to be cautious and not presumptive.

Secondly, be human and employ basic manners; your please and thank you will come in very handy here. It is importance to strike a balance between confidence and politeness. You also do not want to sound desperate.

4.        Get to the point

This is another very important tip. You are probably sending a message to a very busy person who has taken a few minutes out of their day to check their emails or LinkedIn, so you need to make sure they understand what you are asking for almost at first glance. While you should be polite and personal, don’t beat about the bush.

I often get messages from students simply with a greeting such as “good afternoon ma”. The student’s rationale is probably to strike up a conversation and then make their request. However, the honest truth is that there are very few professionals who have the time to exchange empty pleasantries over the internet with a person they do not know. Greet, and state what you want. The people that want to help out will do so regardless of whether you asked them how work is going.

Another big mistake people make when sending out cold emails is narrating their entire life story. There is also no need for this; stating what you are currently doing or hoping to do will suffice.

5.        Be specific

It is easy to ramble, provide a lot of information and background, and end up sending a message that has no specific request.

Before sending, read over your message to ensure that you have left the reader a specific action point. This may be to let you know when they are available for a call, assist with forwarding your CV, or put you in contact with someone else.

6.        Ask small

It is also important to keep your request as lowly as possible. Asking a potential employer to have a look at your CV or profile is better than out rightly asking for a job. If certain things are in place, the former may lead to the latter, but simply asking for a job upfront could be presumptive.

In the same way, asking someone to give you the direct number of their HR Manager or Managing Partner so you can follow up on your application, is asking for your email to be ignored. It is better to ask the person to speak to the HR Manager on your behalf.

7.        Be patient

This stems from the previous point about politeness. You may not get a response as quickly as you may have hoped. You might not even get a response at all.

You may send a ‘gentle reminder’, but ensure that it is exactly that; be polite and extremely cautious in your reminder. It may also be prudent to give the recipient more time than you might think is sufficient.

Having someone who needs a favour and is pushy about it can be off-putting to recipients.

8.        Email the right person

This tip is simple and seems obvious but it pays to double check that the person you are sending an email or message to is actually in a position to assist with your request.

In conclusion, use the below as a guide when drafting your message

Paragraph 1 – who you are and what you do and/or aspire to do

Paragraph 2 – How you discovered the recipient (this is where personal touch comes in)

Paragraph 3 – What you would like the recipient to do for you

Except in peculiar circumstances, the message should ideally not be longer than 300 words. Also remember to include an appropriate subject, salutation and sign-off.


Yimika Adesola is the Founder of Legally Engaged and an Associate in the Corporate/Commercial law arm of a top-tier Nigerian law firm.

She advises blue-chip companies on various areas of law including mergers, acquisitions and capital raisings, restructurings, taxation, finance, employment and compliance.

She seeks to provide direction to students and young professionals by providing them with the information they need to launch successful careers, and make better career decisions. Follow Yimika on LinkedIn here.



legallyengagedTips for Sending Cold (unsolicited) Messages to Professionals

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *