Informational interviewing is one of the most powerful ways to succeed in career selection and job searching, and your first impression for those informational interviews is often made through an email introduction. This post is a comprehensive guide on how to make excellent forwardable introductions, which should start things off on the right foot with your interviewee and make the friend who connected you happy to make more introductions.
Like most recommendations in the Unusually Difficult Guide to Job Searching, the strategy below takes more effort than most job seekers commit, and has many more successful outcomes than doing things less thoughtfully.
Read on for a definition of a forwardable introduction. Or, skip to:
- Bad and good examples of a how to request an introduction
- The most important things to make sure you do when writing one
- Ways to improve once you’ve mastered the basics
What is a forwardable introduction?
As you network to learn more about the job you want and increase your chance of getting it, you’ll often face a scenario.
Your friend, who I’ll call “Friend Freddie”, knows someone you want to talk with, who I’ll call “Knowledgable Katie.” A forwardable introduction is an email you send Freddie to pass along to Katie. To succeed, that email needs to convince Freddie to send it to Katie, and it also needs to convince Katie to talk with you.
Bad and good examples of how to request an introduction
Bad: ask for an introduction
This bad example is only one email, which is almost always worse than the two we see in the good example.
Subject: Intro to Katie
Hi Freddie, great running into you on Friday! Could you introduce me to Katie like we talked about?
Thanks a lot!
Good: make the introduction yourself
To follow the recommended tactic, send two emails, one after the other. Draft both emails before sending either, then send them both a few seconds apart.
The first email is to Freddie, giving him context and thanking him for helping you out.
Subject: Intro to Katie
Hi Freddie, great running into you on Friday! I appreciate your offer to introduce me to your friend Katie. I think I could learn a lot about product management from her, and she used to work at Company X, which I’m starting to interview for now.
To make this as easy as possible for you, I’m now sending you a forwardable introductory email addressed to Katie. If you feel it’s good enough to send along, great; otherwise, let me know and I’ll make some edits.
Thanks a lot!
The second email is sent to Freddie, but meant to be forwarded to Katie without him making major changes. It doesn’t directly address Freddie at any point.
Subject: Katie, about your product management experience
Hi Katie, I’m Matt, a friend of Freddie’s. When I asked him about the best product managers he knew, you were the first person he thought of. I’m applying for product management roles now, and I’d appreciate the chance to meet you, learn about your experience, and ask you some questions about Company X, where I’m now interviewing. I’d also be happy to help you out in whatever way I can, especially if I can help you find people to fill any open roles on your team.
I imagine you’re very busy, so if you’d like to let me know what neighborhood is most convenient for you, I can pick a place and meet you there. I’m available 5PM or later Tuesday, 7AM-9AM Wednesday, or anytime Saturday. If you’re willing to meet, what time and neighborhood would be best for you?
Thanks for considering,
The most important things to make sure you do
The most important thing you can do is make the whole process easy for Friend Freddie and Knowledgeable Katie. Think about how much work they have to do if you send the “bad” email:
- Freddie’s got to take time to compose an email explaining to Katie who you are and why you want to talk with her.
- Katie has to try and figure out who you are; consider whether she wants to talk with you at all; select where and when to propose talking; and decide if she wants to meet, have a video chat, or have a call.
Since this informational interview isn’t the most important thing in Freddie’s or Katie’s life, thinking through those challenges will take them a while (if they don’t just ignore the request), and Freddie probably will not want to make more intros for you in the future.
In contrast, if you look at the “good” example above, you’ll see that all Freddie has to do is forward along the second email, and Katie has everything she needs to accept a time and place without thinking much.
So, if you do nothing else:
Send two emails. One gives your Friend Freddie an explanation and thanks him, the other tells Knowledgeable Katie why you want to talk with her, and suggests how and when you’ll talk.
Give Freddie enough context to be able to send an email to Katie within a minute. If he feels like he has to edit your forwardable email, you could have made it easier.
Give Katie enough context to be able to book a meeting with you after receiving the first email. She shouldn’t have to ask Freddie who you are, ask you what you want to talk about, or propose times and places.
Ways to improve once you’ve mastered the basics
Make sure to convey a compliment. When emailing Knowledgeable Katie, convey something nice that Friend Freddie said about her when you proposed the meeting. This makes Freddie feel positive about enhancing the relationship with Katie, and is flattering for Katie. I often ask the Freddies in my life for people to connect with by asking questions like “who’s the most persistent salesperson you know?” or “who knows healthcare startups best among your friends?”, so the compliment is built into the request.
Include a link to your profile in the first sentence. There’s a big difference between “Hi, I’m Matt.” and “Hi, I’m Matt.” Including a link to your LinkedIn profile or website allows Katie to learn more about your background easily.
Offer to help Katie in a specific way. Make the meeting easier to accept by showing you’re willing to help her. “Happy to help with anything you need” can seem insincere, so suggest a specific possible need like finding candidates for vacant roles on her team or introducing her to someone in your network with similar interests.
Choose which kind of meeting you ask for deliberately. High-commitment meetings like in-person breakfast have a lower chance of being accepted, but you might be able to build a better relationship than a phone call. When choosing between in-person meal, in-person coffee, video chat, and phone call, consider how much you’d value this relationship with Katie and what she’s likely to accept based on the strength of her relationship with Freddie.
At the end of your email to Katie, thank her for considering. It’s lower-pressure and more respectful to thank someone for considering speaking with you than to assume they’re going to do it.
If you have any tactics for sending forwardable introductions that work well which I’m missing here, please let me know! I’ll add them to this guide and credit you for your help.
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