Cold Canvassing Cover Letter

A reader recently asked if I had a sample “letter of interest” (email or snail mail) to send to a company for employment, even if they don’t have any particular job openings at the moment. Since I didn’t have one to show her, I thought it was a good idea to create a template for a “cold call” letter of interest to share with all of you.

The thing I want to stress is that there is NO ONE RIGHT WAY to approach this. The main thing is to find the best words possible to get them intrigued enough to read your letter carefully, take time to look at your resume, and actually consider whether it might pay to chat with you – regardless of current openings.

Can ANY letter of interest do all that?

I guess that’s a bit of a trick question, since no matter how brilliant your letter or email is, you never know what mood the reader might be in or what kinds of things are going on in the company at the time that might get in the way.

Still, with that caveat in mind, the answer is YES … a great letter of interest that just happens to land at the right time and with the right person can open doors. And since the only cost to you is your time and effort – and maybe the cost of a stamp if you mail it – then the risk is well worth it.

In many ways, job search is a matter of playing the odds and NOT about waiting for absolute certainty, which is extremely rare. And timing can indeed be everything. But this also tells us that you might want to try again at some point if you don’t get the answer you want the first time.

 =>  Click here for more job search samples!


When can you use this type of “cold-call” letter or email?

There are four basic situations where these can be useful:

  • When there is a company you really want to work for in any position.
  • When there is a particular type of job you know you want.
  • When there is an industry you are targeting.
  • When you are looking for your first job or to change careers and are open to pretty much anything that might fit.

Template for a cold call letter of interest

Since each situation is different, when you work with a template like this it is only meant to offer suggestions and a general framework – please tailor the words to your specific needs and situation! (You can also can use this template for volunteer, freelance, or part-time work.)

The main thing is, you want to be able to grab their attention in a way that interests them enough to give it full attention. The letter should feel natural and have your “voice”. It shouldn’t be too wooden or stiff – nor should it get too cutesy or personal, even when you’ve researched the person you’re writing to.

As much as you might want to gush about how much this means to you or tell them your whole life story, you need to respect their time and remember their point of view. In the end, it really is about them and their needs, even while you are telling them about you.

Look for opportunities to establish some quick commonality about a topic or maybe a person / project in common – even something you read that the person or company representative said. Something like that (use your judgment to stay within bounds) can give you a good lead-in paragraph to hopefully get them intrigued enough to respond.

And now here’s the sample I promised. Again, make sure to use this as a template, adapting it to YOUR individual needs:

[Property of Career Nook. Click to see sample template in new window.]


More articles to help

♦   How to Begin a Job Search: Getting My Job Search Started Right!

♦   What Are Transferable Job Skills and Why Do They Matter?

♦   How Long Does It REALLY Take To Find a Job?

♦   How to Find a Job When There Aren’t Any Jobs Out There


♦   What You Need To Know About Working With RECRUITERS

♦   Volunteer Jobs: Can Volunteer Jobs Really Lead to Real Jobs?

♦   Job Search Networking: What’s the Best Way to Ask People for Help?

♦   Networking Tips Checklist for Job Search (w/ sample spreadsheet)


I read an interesting article this morning by Nicholas Carlson at the Business Insider about Tristan Walker, a Stanford MBA student who sent a letter (eight letters, actually) to the founders of FourSquare to ask for a job. Ultimately, he got the job and is now their Vice President of Business Development. He didn’t use a boiler plate cover letter like so many job seekers do, showing why it makes sense to break the traditional mold of a one-size-fits-all approach to cover letter writing.

Hey Dennis and Naveen,

How’s it going? Hope all is well!

My name is Tristan Walker and Im a first year student (going into my
second year) at Stanford Business School (originally from New York).
Im a huge fan of what you both have built and excited about what you
guys have planned for FourSquare. It is an awesome , awesome service.

I would love to chat with you guys at some point, if you’re available,
about FourSquare. This year, I’m looking to help out and work
extremely hard for a startup with guys I can learn a ton from. Dennis,
with your experience at Google and the Dodgeball product, and Naveen,
with your experience at Sun and engineering in general, I know I could
learn a great deal from you both!

Before business school, I was an oil trader on Wall Street for about
two years and hated it! Moved out to the Bay/Stanford to pursue my
passion for entrepreneurship and the startup world. This past spring I
had the opportunity to work for Twitter as an intern and learned a
ton. Solidified my commitment to working at a startup that I’m
passionate about, and FourSquare is one of those startups that I
believe in.

I know you guys are probably getting inundated with internship-type
requests, but thought it’d be worth a shot! I can assure you Im humble
and Im hungry! Let me know if you’d be interested in chatting further.
I definitely look forward to hearing from you.

Stay awesome!

Obviously, Tristan’s a smart guy who would be a viable candidate for any job under the sun, but he did several of the key things that we preach to clients regarding the cover letter:


  • He knew his audience and tailored his message accordingly, stating why his background at Twitter would be a great fit at a start-up like FourSquare
  • He demonstrated his passion for working in a start-up culture and that he believed in FourSquare’s product.
  • He positioned himself as someone who was willing to learn and grow within the company, acknowledging the founders’ own specific backgrounds as an opportunity to expand his skill set.
  • He was persistent. It’s a fine line between persistent and annoying, but sometimes you do what you have to do to get noticed.
  • And finally, he asked for the job.


We can’t all have a Stanford MBA, Wall Street experience, and an internship at Twitter, but we can follow Tristan’s example and find better ways to connect with prospective employers.


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