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How to write the perfect cold email for a banking job

So, you want to get a job in investment banking. Let’s say you missed the window to go down traditional entry routes into finance, or you flopped something or another, or you want to move in from another industry. Life happens, right? Yes. But what do you do then?

You might very well send off an email like the “good old days” and hope for the best. Well, long life to you, but don’t take any rejection personally. Nuno Reis, a former trader and physics PhD (and current careers coach), suggests building up a good “emotional bank account” to handle the pain of any rejection.

Victoria McLean, CEO of careers consultancy CityCV, suggests using a cold email as part of a broader strategy. “Cold emails aren't a silver bullet,” she says. “If you can combine a cold email with other contact opportunities, you can put yourself at an advantage.” Those other contact opportunities are social media, really – you don’t want to channel your inner Joe Goldberg for a coincidental coffee encounter.

Alright, so cold emails may or may not work, but they’re better than nothing at all. How do we go about writing one?

Short and sweet

The first thing to bear in mind is that a cold email shouldn’t drag on until next application season. Put yourself in the shoes of your reader – would you read a stranger’s email that dragged on for the length of a book chapter? No, of course not. “Remove as much of the friction and burden as possible,” Nuno says.

Be a tease

Manvir Nijhar, a SocGen MD turned careers coach, says that "before you even make the first outreach, you have to realise yo umight not get a reply. Maybe even your second outreach. Or your third. So you've got to think about - if we've got the worst case scenario, three or four outreaches without a reply, you don't want to give too much away at the start. You want to be clever about how much you actually give away."

If you say too much, and give too much away in the first email (or even emails), you're not left with much to reveal once the recipient of the emails finally makes contact. "How can you follow up with anything more than 'have you seen my first email?' Which obviously is not going to get the type of reaction that you want."

The person on the receiving end of your email probably doesn’t have much time to spare for strangers, either. “The person you’re going to be speaking to is probably time-poor, has a lot on their plate, has a lot of problems they’re trying to solve, and is bombarded by information,” Manvir says. Hold something back.

Suck up (at least a bit)

“People like to give advice and talk about themselves,” Nuno says. “Share a study relevant to their work and ask a smart question about it,” although be careful not to breach confidentiality. Or as Victoria puts it, “say nice things… It’s a good idea to express your enthusiasm.”

Play it cool

Attaching your CV/Resume would be overkill. “Don't come across as desperate for a role (even if you are),” Victoria says. “Keep it professional, but not overly formal.” You might also hit more IT issues by attaching a file to an external email.

But don’t play yourself down

“It's important to mention your qualifications,” Victoria says. “your potential employer is probably looking for someone with very specific qualifications.” Finance being such a well-regulated industry means that you have to acknowledge regulation. It’s “important to show a good understanding of these regulations and the industry as a whole.”

End on a call to action

Victoria and Nuno agree that ending on an invitation of some sort is the best way to achieve the aims of the email. “Avoid asking to grab a coffee, and offer something that requires less of their time,” Nuno says. Victoria suggests “a short video call or meeting,” and to invite the recipient to select a date and time. And don’t forget to thank them for your time!

Send your email between 6am and 10pm, on a weekday (ideally Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday).

Following up

“The other thing you should do is follow up,” Victoria says. “Not in a pushy way, maybe leave it a week or so and then send a short email.” Nuno agrees. “Have a follow up in a couple of weeks,” he says, if they don’t reply to your first email. Make sure you bring something new to the table – chasing for the sake of chasing won’t win you any fans. “Chasing people will often upset them. Always keep in mind ‘what’s in it for them’ above all,” Nuno says.

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Have a confidential story, tip, or comment you’d like to share? Contact: Zeno.Toulon@efinancialcareers.com in the first instance.

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AUTHORZeno Toulon

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