The secret to making your cold emails 5X more successful

Cold emailing is the secret sauce to finding hidden career opportunities. But what happens when nobody is replying to your emails? The answer might surprise you.

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Cold emailing can be discouraging. What do you do when you’ve sent 50 emails and none of them pan out?

The answer: be lazy. Wait… what? Don’t worry, we’ll get back to that.

I recently wrote a viral post called how to stop getting rejected from interviews, in which I explain the importance of increasing your odds of landing interviews by rigging the game in your favor. (The average job posting gets 250+ applications — you need to do better than 1/250)

That insight applies to cold emailing as well. Although I firmly believe cold emailing is one of the most effective techniques to significantly change one’s career trajectory, it is also a game of luck. This can sometimes be discouraging if you’re on an unlucky streak.

Whenever you face terrible odds, ask yourself “how can I improve my odds by rigging the game in my favor?”

If you’re looking for an internship, how can you increase your cold email hit-rate from 1/25 to 1/5? If you’re able to 5X your odds, that means you are 5 times more likely to land an amazing internship.

So what’s the secret to 5X your odds?


Cold emailing is certainly a hard job. The trick to improving your success rate is to do more with less by stacking the deck in your favor.  

Let’s look at an example: consider 2 people looking for a “business” internship at a startup:

  1. Person A cold emails 25 tech startups and expresses his interest in general business roles, which results in 5 informational chats
    • Person A spent 10 hours putting together the list of startups, finding decision-maker contacts for each one, and doing 5 informational chats.
    • From the 5 chats, 1 ends up becoming a strong internship lead

Result: 10 hours of work = 1 strong lead. Not bad — Person A can do this every week until he’s satisfied with his internship prospects

  1. Person B cold emails 5 hyper-targeted startups expressing interest in specific business functions
    • Person B spent 2 hours putting together the short list of startup and finding decision-maker contacts. She heard of 2 from a recruiting event at her university where the startups were looking to hire for full-time business operations positions. She found the other 3 online because of full-time postings for business development roles.
    • From the 5 emails, she gets a few informational chats and 1 ends up becoming a strong internship lead

Result: 2 hours of work = 1 strong lead. A 5X improvement.

Smart work > hard work. Therein lies the power of laziness.

Why does this work?

Person B had an unfair advantage. She knew certain employers were in need of new hires on specific teams. By reaching out to those teams, she targeted her outreach to managers who may need her help the most.

Quick Caveat: Sometimes hiring managers purposely do not want interns because of the time commitment required to train them. If this is the case, convince the manager that you are willing to do remedial tasks as part of your internship (data collection, online research, customer support). There are usually things that don’t take much skill and nobody wants to do but need to get done.

Most of her friends (including Person A) ignored the full-time job postings because they were seemingly irrelevant for internships.

Instead, she capitalized on that opportunity and pressed about internship opportunities on the same teams as the full-time job posting.

She is making the most of a cold email despite not knowing anyone at the target companies (warm introduction). Smart work > hard work.

By the way, this is not a hypothetical scenario — Person A and B are real people.

Person A had an advantage relative to the average person because he understands the power of cold emailing and rigorously applies it to find opportunities. He did well. 

But Person B has a drastic advantage over Person A and others because she stacks the deck in her favor by applying cold emailing techniques in an efficient manner. She was a little lazy in her approach, but it paid off with multiple internship offers in her second year in college. She killed it. 

Do you want to be Person A or Person B? Reply back and tell me how you will work smarter.   

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