Note: Upon her indictment on federal money laundering charges and her arrest February 8, 2022, Inc. dismissed Heather Morgan as a contributing columnist. As is our practice, we do not unpublish editorial content, and rather have added this note for full transparency.

Whether you're just out of college or searching for your dream job, finding employment is something most of us dread. With good reason: the standard job search takes hours of combing through job boards and endlessly tweaking cover letters and resumes before you hit the "submit" button.

And then after you spend all that time submitting dozens of applications... nothing. Or, if you're lucky, you'll get an automated message thanking you for your interest, but sorry, that interest isn't mutual.

Why does this happen?

You probably realize by now that most positions get hundreds of applications, if not thousands. The last time we posted a new job at SalesFolk, we got more than 200 applications in less than two weeks. Sifting through this many applications doesn't always allow the hiring manager enough time to understand your career background, let alone how they could add value to the organization.

And that's assuming the hiring manager ever sees your application at all. Many organizations have automated systems and administrators who will mercilessly weed through job applications that don't tick all the boxes they're looking for. And if you've had a non-traditional education or career experiences, this leaves you disadvantaged in most application processes.

But there is a shortcut through the job application and Human Resources maze. With a great cold email, you can kickstart a conversation with the hiring manager and make them excited to interview you. Here are three tips you can use to craft a cold email that will move your application to the top of the pile.

1. Do your research.

I recently helped a friend draft a cold email to the executive director of a non-profit. She really wanted the job--an assistant position at a foster-care center--and she had all the right qualifications. But something about her email felt off.

The issue? She didn't do any research about the center's mission or look into the executive director's past experiences. Or, if she did, that didn't come across in her message. As a result, she missed her opportunity to show her interest in the work the team was doing.

Before you start drafting a cold email, figure out who you need to send it to and what they care about. For example, if you're after an email-marketing job, the Chief Marketing Officer is probably a good person to try to start a conversation with. If the company you're looking at doesn't have that exact role, choose an equivalent title.

First, you should stalk their LinkedIn, Twitter and other social media accounts they may have, searching for clues about their passions, long-term goals for the company, and even general interests. You can also search Google for any articles they've written recently, which gives you an idea about what type of message would most appeal to them.

No nugget of information is too large or too small for you to use in an email. Noticing they were recently on a panel about reaching new audiences online, for example, or spotting a tweet about how that they think email is a preferred way to distribute information to customers instead of social media updates can all be turned into the basis for a great cold email.

2. Mention the company's long-term goals.

Using your research, think about how your contact's role fits into the company's future goals. What metrics do they care about? What are some of their challenges? Including a few sentences that show you're interested in their long-term success is key for making that initial connection.

A good opener, in this case, might be, "How has your team evolved in response to the fact that most email newsletters are viewed on mobile devices now? Has it changed the way you work?"

Ideally, your question shows a high level of interest in the company's mission and the industry as a whole. It proves you are the type of employee who will be tapped into the workplace community and laser-focused on helping the company reach their goals.

3. Be specific about how you can help.

Saying you have software skills or five years of industry experience is almost meaningless nowadays. How can you be different and stand out from other job applicants?
Your best chance is to craft a story that demonstrates the value you can add to the company. What can you do those other applicants can't? How does your experience make you uniquely qualified to help them grow their business or improve their department?

One way to apply this tactic is by offering up a quick idea or relevant suggestion to improve a process or help drive revenue. Before I had my own company, I used this exact email tactic to land dozens of job interviews with top startups and management-consulting firms.

Another is to focus on highlighting your past wins, like how you helped a previous employer grow their email list by 20,000 subscribers. But whatever you do say, don't be too wordy--nobody wants to read a wall of text from a stranger.

Remember, if you want to talk to an actual person, you need to write your emails with a human being in mind. Keep your tone friendly but respectful, and the facts short but specific.

Has a cold email ever helped you get the job of your dreams? Tell us about it in the comments.