Thursday, July 18

Statistically Yours: Cold emailing in a quest for internships


Introducing “Statistically Yours,” Daily Bruin Radio’s first data-themed podcast. For our first episode, we bring you data from one UCLA student’s experience with cold emailing people in investment banking. This summer, Andrei Secu looked up over 800 people in the industry, and emailed nearly 300 of them. We explore his records to find patterns that could help UCLA students find success in their own cold emails.

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SECU: Hi Analyst,

I hope you’re doing well. My name is Andrei Secu and I am a rising junior at UCLA. I would like to pursue a career in investment banking, and am interested in learning more about “Bank.” Would you be available sometime in the coming week for a brief phone call? I would appreciate the opportunity to hear more about your background and experience at “Bank.” I have attached my resume as a reference. Thank you in advance for your time.

Best regards,

NANAYAKKARA: This summer, my good friend Andrei Secu looked up over 800 people in investment banking, hoping to network his way into this incredibly competitive field. He sent nearly 300 emails to people he had never met before, asking for phone calls and keeping careful track of these exchanges.

So how many people replied? And who replied? How many phone calls did he end up having?

The question is: What story do Andrei’s records tell us?

This is “Statistically Yours,” a podcast where we bring you stories through data. I’m your host, Priyanka Nanayakkara. To start today’s story, I’ll let Andrei explain his spreadsheet.

SECU: There’s two main tabs. On the first tab, it’s just a huge list of pretty much everyone I looked up from LinkedIn. And then, on the second tab it lists the people that I’ve cold emailed, the people that have actually replied to my emails, and the people I’ve had phone calls with.

NANAYAKKARA: To be precise, Andrei looked up 822 people, and emailed 298 of them. It might be hard to imagine one person reaching out to so many people on such a large scale. But, Andrei had a system.

SECU: I’d get home around six, and I’d go ahead and I’d draft all my emails for that day. And then, I would wake up early in the morning – so, I’d wake up at 6 a.m., because that’s 9 a.m. New York time, and I would just wake up and send out all my emails and double-check that they were right. And then I’d go back to sleep, and when I got into work at around 9 a.m. I would send out all my San Francisco and LA emails, and then at that point I’d also reply to all the New York emails that had been sent to me.

NANAYAKKARA: In total, there were 78 replies. 15 percent of the emails he sent bounced back, possibly due to the fact that analysts had moved jobs and hadn’t updated their LinkedIn information yet. 26 percent of the emails he sent out received responses. In my conversation with Andrei, we talked about just who was replying.

NANAYAKKARA: This is kind of interesting! 8 percent of all the people that you looked up went to UCLA. 12 percent of all the emails that you sent were to people who went to UCLA. Then you have 24 percent of all the replies you got were from UCLA grads. 31 percent of all your phone calls were with UCLA grads, and 43 percent of your meetings were with UCLA grads.

SECU: Oh, wow, no, that’s really unexpected! I didn’t realize that.

NANAYAKKARA: In your search, did you not target people who went to UCLA because you thought that might be more effective?

SECU: Yeah, so, usually the people who are most sympathetic, especially from New York, to UCLA students are the UCLA grads. And a lot of the other non-UCLA graduates that I reached out to would also recommend for me to reach out to UCLA students because basically the way these banks recruit is they have set recruitment teams. So they’ll have four guys who went to Harvard that recruit kids from Harvard. So in that same way … UCLA graduates are actually responsible for recruiting people from UCLA because they know which finance clubs you should get into, which internships you should have, whether the classes you take are really easy or whether they’re actually challenging, and so on.

NANAYAKKARA: Lucky for us, UCLA’s alumni network is made up of over 500,000 Bruins. Our correspondent Alana Mouchard talked to Elisabeth Honka, who is an assistant professor of marketing in the Anderson School of Management. According to Honka, we can leverage this network by simply mentioning our alma mater in cold emails to alumni.

MOUCHARD: What factors … might go into a strong cold email?

HONKA: First is by either relating to the person – so for example, if I am emailing an alum, I’m going to say, “Hey, I’m a student from UCLA – you know, your alma mater. Could you please help me out?” so that the person can relate to the writer.

NANAYAKKARA: Andrei’s data certainly backs the advice that we should be reaching out to alumni. Remember, Andrei’s overall reply rate was 26 percent. But, if we break down reply rates by where recipients went to college, we see a different story. Here are a couple reply rates by alma mater: Berkeley’s was 27 percent, Boston College’s was 31 percent, Duke’s was 27 percent. Now, for UCLA: 51 percent. Without knowing these specific numbers, Andrei was noticing he could rely on Bruins to respond.

NANAYAKKARA: Did you notice that when you were actually sending emails? Like, “Oh I’m getting a lot more responses from people who went to UCLA,” or was it hard to tell?

SECU: No, it was definitely very noticeable. Usually I could trust that most of the UCLA emails I sent out, people were at least going to take a phone call with me.

NANAYAKKARA: When they actually responded to you, and you responded to them, did you talk about anything UCLA specific? Was there a Bruin connection?

SECU: No, that’s a thing! It’s a lot easier to connect with people off the campus, the sports, the experience.

NANAYAKKARA: Like professor Honka said, it’s so important to relate to whoever you’re reaching out to. This is especially the case since people might only spend a few seconds glancing at your email. Sarah Park is the associate director for industry relations at the UCLA Career Center, and she has some pretty concrete advice for cold emailing.

PARK: In the email, formatting is really important. So, wherever we can put bullet points and bring out the most important information, highlighting certain words and times, and that sort of thing that would be relevant for planning purposes, we keep that in consideration when we’re emailing. Because again, they spend two to five seconds looking at your email.

NANAYAKKARA: Back to Andrei’s story. If you remember his email, it was clear and concise. He introduced himself and asked for what he wanted: a phone call. And yes, it turns out his 300 emails did indeed turn into one coveted internship offer. But he also came away from the experience with so much more.

NANAYAKKARA: What’s the main thing that you can take away from this process of cold emailing?

SECU:I think the biggest thing is: it really redefines my idea of success. So, a lot of times, especially in high school … if you don’t succeed at the first go, you’ve kind of failed. Whereas, this process, like you said, it went from 300 cold emails to one offer, right? That’s really small. It just completely changes the way you look at things. And, I think that’s really important going forward, because I don’t look at things anymore as “This is my one shot at making it.” It’s more like, “If I hit one in 10, I’m good to go.”

NANAYAKKARA: This is more than a story about 822 contacts, or 298 emails, or 49 phone calls, or one offer, even. The data guides us to look at where connections are made. It’s hard to ignore the fact that Bruins respond to Bruins. With a network of over 500,000 alumni, it was easy to see these connections even from just one person’s data. Perhaps there are other connections to consider: race, gender, industry, age, and so on. Though to fully see the scope of cold emailing, we need more emails, more experiences. We just need more data.

For now, though, the main takeaway is that if you’re looking for an internship, or a job, try sending an email to a Bruin. There’s a pretty good chance you’ll get a reply.

Thanks for joining on this first episode of “Statistically Yours.” And, if you have any experiences with cold emailing, or any data that can reveal any insights, send us an email at [email protected]

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  • JP mail

    How did Andrei get so many people’s email addresses? Most people do not list their email on LinkedIn.