Should I attach a .pdf to an initial, unsolicted email?

Scenario: The company does not have a job listed, but I want to inquire about internships, freelance work, or entry level positions that may be available in the future.

In the past I have sent a single email* with PDF (resume, cover letter, portfolio) attached. Just a “I am interested in a position at _______ and I have attached a portfolio, cover letter, and résumé for your consideration. I would love to hear your thoughts.” kind of thing.

The response, if any, is always “we liked your work but we do not have a position available. We’ll file it away in a damp basement somewhere.”

I was thinking instead that I should first send an email simply asking about available positions. That way, if they are looking, they can’t send a sugar coated rejection of my portfolio. I need to know if I should just go back to school for something else, and I want a genuine response instead of a form rejection. Maybe I’ll even get some advice on how to improve. Does this seem like a good strategy or am I just going to be annoying them by drawing the whole process out?

*I used to call, but receptionists know nothing and the people that matter are always ‘out of office’ or don’t answer their phone. I’ve found that emailing the enigmas HR contact in addition to the creative director elicits the fastest response.

It’s best to send a link to an online portfolio.

  1. I am not storing all these 90MB pdfs on my computer, I look at them, show them around if they are good and then delete.

  2. a web link is easy for me to forward. I might not have a job, but I might know someone who does… but not want to give you their info, nice and easy to forward a link on

  3. it is polite to not jam up people’s email. Sometimes I’m on the road for 2-3 weeks, and if someone jams up my blackberry, it is pretty frustrating.

No. As a general rule of email etiquette, do not send unsolicited attachments. It’s annoying and more and more email systems are becoming picky about attachments, filtering or rejecting the messages. Take 5 minutes to host your PDF on one of the many free file sharing sites or use Dropbox (highly recommended)

Send a link. If I have the time and interest, I will download a PDF. IF you send me a huge PDF that clogs my inbox, you’ve started off with a bad first impression.

My suggestion: Do a couple of simple searches of common job boards and the company website to see if the company has an ad somewhere with directions on how to apply for a position. If not, then email with a link. That leaves it up to the potential employer.

No, this is something that really annoys me. Recently a student sent me a 10mb resume (as a photoshop file), first of all, why do a resume in photoshop, no recruitment consultant is even going to be able to view it, in most cases they won’t even receive it as it will be too big!

I also work wirelessly - I don’t have a landline, only 3G internet access and huge downloads eat my bandwidth! As Yo says - Blackberrys and iphones are first port of call for alot of us and it causes us problems.

There are plenty of potential employers out there that have rather archaic email systems, so anything over 5mb is going to bounce.

Get some webspace, or get a corefolio and put it there and send a link. If you must have a link on your website to download a pdf of your portfolio, please, please put a warning on there regarding the size of the download. I made a mistake of clicking on one of these links (which did not have a warning on it), recently and half an hour (and many megabytes later), it still hadn’t fully downloaded so I simply gave up!

Or send by post?

Think of the experience. I am of the impression alot of people especially deisgners probably dislike spending alot of their day sat infront of the computer. Therfore a well crafted CV, Folio package arrives on a desk, this could be a nice welcoming distraction if done correctly. Ok it is more expensive then sending an e-mail, but then again the first folio you send out shouldnt be 30-40 pages long. I also find e-mail very inpersonal.

Dont know if thats a universal feeling would be interesting to know if others agree\disagree/

I was surprised by the unsolicited e-mail attatchment response didn’t think providing it is kept under 5mb it would be a problem.

I agree

If you send a physical portfolio, you would make an impression immediately. Imagine the impact of a big company putting an ad in coroflot and getting 990 responses by email and 10 physical books… the books would be memorable, especially if you have skills to showcase in it. Presentation/persuasion to win people is a huge part of ID, ie. creating something that stands out from the crowd

I was surprised by the unsolicited e-mail attatchment response didn’t think providing it is kept under 5mb it would be a problem

It wasn’t a problem until every Tom Dick n’ Harry got a Blackberry.

With most of my clients I use yousendit to send work to them, because a few 5mb attachments and I’ve clogged their Blackberry up and pushed them over their download limit.

I’m of another mind. I believe you only get one chance to make a good impression.

That being said, I think that your first email should contain as much as possible within reason. a 90mb portfolio, nope. but a nice, clean, trim 6mb one is OK. Sending an email first with no links or attachments just makes the person need to write more emails and takes more time.

A company may not have a position open but if your portfolio is hot sh!t, there could be an opening made.

A web portfolio is also an option, though keep in mind, some people are too lazy to click a link, and especially if there is a bloating flash page that requires loading, will not wait the wait. On the other had, I find (at least personally) it’s hard to not download a portfolio even out of curiosity, though the same rules apply that if you don’t grab them in 3 pages, it’s click, click, click, close , delete.

Nowadays, I’m not a huge fan of the post portfolio. Just another thing to clutter the desk and get buried, hard to forward to others, and just creates the problem of trying to find who sent it, looking up their email address, making a reply… too easy to get shuffled into the “G” (garbage) file.

also, as to shoenista’s comment, yes, please keep the portfolio in a normal file format and consider size. If a designer sends me a portfolio in .PSD or even .PPT (or .DOC), I almost never open it. any designer should know that a PDF is best and if you can’t even have a handle on basic software use, I’d doubt that your design skill is up to scratch.