Home > Career Advancement, Communication, My First Time, Networking > Most Effective Tips on How to Write Follow up Emails

Most Effective Tips on How to Write Follow up Emails

Dear Danye,

I really want to hear your insights on how to follow up with people I just met with such as alumni or high profile people. After the first acquaintance, I usually don’t know what to say to them through email or phone since we barely see each other. At the same time, I’m afraid that too many emails of questions or holiday wishes would annoy them. But I want to make a good impression because I may need their help at some point. Would you please elaborate how you maintain the relationship with your contacts?

Thank you – N


Another great question from Ask Danye, you guys are really awesome awesome inspirations! And I want to reassure you that the very fact you are writing this email to me means you take initiatives and that you are on the right track: yes, you do need to reach out to people BEFORE you actually need help from them. And here’s how to do it:

  • Make it extremely easy for them
  • Keep it very short (the 3 steps)
  • Watch your tone (some do’s and don’ts)
  • Write it already

Make it extremely easy for them

Senior people are busy people, so if you want them to do just about anything in the world, you need to make it super easy for them. I recently coordinated with HR, Yale Alums at my firm, and Women Initiatives for an informational/networking/recruiting event with Smart Woman Securities, a women organization from Yale. I pushed very hard for the event to happen obviously since we don’t really recruit on campus, and there’s tons of coordination work. But I got affirmative response from EVERY SINGLE person I reached out to and everyone is super excited to help me, even Harvard alums!

And why? Needless to say I am passionate about this event myself and I am willing to do my homework, but more importantly, I made it super easy for them. All they need to do, honestly, is to show up, and talk about their experience. I will take care of everything else and my calendar invite is concise and right to the point, so they understand exactly what they are expected to do. And this is VERY COMFORTING for any senior people.

MY POINT IS: think about ways you can make it easy for whoever you are reaching out to (including using the tips I will discuss further with my post), but also: if it is difficult to talk to this person directly,

1) Try to connect with his assistant and find out his schedule, when is he traveling again? When is a good time for you to stop by/call?

2) Try to ask to connect with a more junior person on the team. Especially if it’s about a job position a lot of times it’s much more effective and informative if you talk to someone junior on the team, because they just went through the same process and they are also very much involved in the decision making process.

.

Keep it very short

I have problems reading long emails, from total strangers, filled with irrelevant information or emotional crap (I mean I don’t even know you yet!) I don’t understand why people do that, and the only reason I could think of is that they don’t really know what they want either and they are probably deliberately confusing me. Either way they end up not looking very good. Check out what not to overdo in an interview it’s basically the same logic.

So what I will suggest to you today is a 3-step strategy for any of your follow-up emails. Of course if it’s a follow up email after an interview maybe you want to be more elaborative, but most of the cases, you just need to cover your basis with the 3-steps:

1)    Who you are & how you guys met

2)    What you want & why him/her

3)    Appreciation and further steps

Now let me put this into perspective:

1) Who you are & how you guys met

Again as I mentioned in my previous post on breaking into a conversation, don’t expect other people to really remember you after a group networking event. Your only job is to leave a good impression so you can PICK IT UP from there when you write your follow up email. So what you need to do is to re-introduce who you are (concise) and remind him/her how you guys met (i.e. at the speaker-series event at Columbia University).

2) What you want & why him/her

Sometimes you don’t know what you want. If that’s the case, you can just say:

I joined your discussion session afterwards and I learned a lot from your experience on how you transitioned from a sell-side analyst to a buy-side portfolio manager. It is very enlightening to me, and thank you for sharing.

And when you do know what you want, it is extremely important that you connect your own background and experience with this person’s SPECIFIC organization and SPECIFIC role (check out here on how to write targeted emails like this). If you are too general about this, the person sitting on the other side of the table will be confused why you have to talk to him/her about this, when you could have talked to almost everyone else, and that is NOT an incentive to write you back.

And for God’s sake, never ever ask general questions like: can you give me some advice on how to get into asset management?

Trust me if it’s in the old days and there were no emails your letter will be tortured and be thrown away into the trashcan as soon as someone glanced through this line.

3) Appreciation and next steps

It never hurts to be polite. You always want to say “thank you” for the person’s time and you want to “appreciate the insights he/she shared with you”. And when discussing next steps, a good idea is to use language like “if it’s not too much of a trouble, I would really appreciate an opportunity to stop by your office for a 20-min chat”, or something in line with that.

.

Watch your tone

Some people are super nice when you talk to them face to face, but they sound like a**holes when they put anything into an email, and more often than not, they are not even aware that they sound very irritating to other people, and that’s NOT HEALTHY.

I would like to particular point out that in the case that you actually received a response with your email and you need to follow up with your follow-up email. It is crucial to make sure that you DON’T ABUSE this opportunity or the precious network.

What I meant is sometimes the person would suggest a time to meet up or to have a call, and you are actually not available that time, pay extra attention on how you reject the invitation and think about how you can suggest an alternative option.

Some Don’ts

  • When the person responded you, you ignore his/her email and don’t even bother to write a response!
  • Write only a one-line sentence: I am not able to meet that time but do you have time next week? (You don’t want this to become a huge email chain when you start to discuss logistic issues because it is tedious and it will bore people to death!)
  • Or sound very cynical about certain situations: I am actually only open to positions in NY. I have some friends in XX location and everybody hates his life there. (Even if it’s really the case you don’t need to go beyond yourself to stress this to someone who’s helping you to find a job!)

Some Do’s (And these are from my actual emails!)

  • When you have to reschedule:

Thank you so much for taking the time to meet me, I am very excited about seeing you again and talking about my background in more details but I actually have a conflict at that time. Do you think I can coordinate with your assistant to schedule a time early next week for me to stop by? Thank you again for your consideration and I look forward to meeting you again soon.

  • When you are not really flexible:

Thank you so much for considering me for the HK position. I am very excited about this opportunity but I really want to start off my career in NY first, as I feel I will be able to learn more given the exposure, the scale and diversity of the market and the growth potentials. I understand there might not be a position available in NY at this point but I would really appreciate it if you could kindly consider me for future positions. I am testing the field with a few other firms and I will keep you posted with any new development from my end as well.

.

Write it already

Finally, your follow-up letter is something EASY to do, given it should be short, concise, right to the point, and it is ALWAYS the most effective when you write your note as soon as possible. You do not need to elaborate any details because this is NOT your resume or your interview (check out here for resume and interview tips).

As long as you don’t write lengthy emails as if you are writing a term paper (please please don’t do that…) and you don’t sound almost arrogant in your response (especially when you have to say no to someone’s kindness), there is absolutely no reason why you should freak out about it or why you still need to WAIT to write it.

Yes write it already.

Just get to it, no matter if it’s a follow up email, or anything else in life. Otherwise, you will spend the rest of your life wondering all the “would have, should have, could have”.

.

For someone as smart as you, I’m sure you know what to do. Good luck!

Advertisements
  1. Nick Su
    February 25, 2011 at 2:27 am

    Danye, thank you so much for sharing your insights on this topic. This is so HELPFUL! Appreciate the great advice!

    • February 25, 2011 at 7:06 pm

      I am glad, good luck and keep sending me good questions 🙂

  2. Sandy
    February 26, 2011 at 8:37 am

    thanks Danye! this is so timely–I’m reading your advice as I type my follow-up emails now.

    • February 26, 2011 at 6:08 pm

      haha, nice! you’re so supportive Sandy.

  3. Lim
    June 9, 2013 at 6:38 am

    Do u send in a follow up email via LinkedIn or the traditional email? or both?

  1. October 6, 2011 at 12:29 pm
  2. March 26, 2012 at 10:09 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: