Today I received another LinkedIn request from someone who wants to connect with me. This was the entire message:
I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.
I do not know Jeni. I do not know why she wants to be part of my professional network.
My only choices on my free version of LinkedIn are to accept or ignore the request. What should I do?
Rather than adding to my network a stranger about whom I know nothing, I will ignore Jeni's request.
Granted, I could research her online. Jeni's last name was included with the request, and I could do an Internet search or even a LinkedIn search to try to find out something about her. But why would I do that work without a good reason?
If you want to connect with someone professionally, why not write your request so that the other person will feel positive about connecting with you?
If you are using a networking service such as LinkedIn, tailor your request to join someone's network. For example, Jeni might have written something like this:
I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn. I am beginning to develop business writing classes at my company, _________ [name of company], and I would like to connect with you about approaches, content, resources, and other topics.
If I had received a message like that, I would have accepted her request because it is specific. It would have helped me understand why we might have something in common and might mutually benefit from being connected.
If you want to email a stranger to introduce yourself, be clear about your reason for writing. Do you want advice from the other person? Would you like an answer to a question? Would you like to have coffee to discuss a business challenge? Know what you want so you can make your request clear.
Consider this example as an email request:
Subject: Request Regarding Music Business Internships
Dear Mr. Wilson,
My friend Debra Jones suggested I write to you. She thought you might be willing to share your advice on finding an internship in the music business. I am graduating next week from Ballard High School and am excited to be starting the music business program at USC in late August. Until then, I am available for a few weeks this summer and would like to get experience in the industry.
I have good computer skills, and I am open to lots of experiences. I would prefer a paid internship, but I am open to volunteering too. I live in Seattle.
Would you be willing to talk with me by phone or in person? If so, please let me know.
Thank you for considering my request.
[phone number here]
My polite sample message from Dave includes these parts:
- A referral from someone Mr. Wilson presumably knows
- A reason for the message
- A little background on the writer and what he is looking for
- A specific request
- Contact information
If my fictitious Dave Bell did not know someone who could refer him to Mr. Wilson, he might have opened this way:
Dear Mr. Wilson,
My research on the Internet has informed me that you are a local Seattle expert in the music business. You have worked on Folklife, Bumbershoot, and other music festivals. I am writing to you as someone who might be willing to share your advice on finding an internship in the music business....
Too often people introducing themselves to strangers put very little effort into the message. The less the apparent effort, the less likely it is that someone will respond positively.
Do you have suggestions or views on how to introduce yourself to a stranger for networking or information-gathering purposes? Please share them here.
How to Introduce Yourself in an Email
When you’re sending an email message to introduce yourself, it’s important to send a professional email message that engages the reader and clearly states why you’re writing. Most people are inundated with email, and it can be tricky to get an email message from someone they don’t know opened, let alone read.
Review these tips for getting your email messages opened, read, and responded to, with examples of email subject lines to use, and formal and casual email introductions.
How to Introduce Yourself in an Email
Write a message opening subject line. How many email messages do you trash without ever opening them? Pay attention to what you include in the subject line, so yours has a chance of getting opened. Be specific, and let the reader know why you are writing. Keep your subject line short, so the recipient can see, at a glance, what the message is about.
Address your message to a person. If you can find a person to write to rather than a generic email address, like email@example.com, you will be able to connect personally with individuals you want to meet. LinkedIn, company websites, and social media pages are good ways to find contact people.
Use a formal greeting. If you’re writing with a specific request, use a formal business greeting like Mr. or Ms. First names also work if you have a connection to the person or you’re writing on a more casual basis to provide information rather than seeking assistance.
Here are examples of email message greetings and here's the scoop on choosing letter salutations and greetings.
Use your connections. When writing an introductory email or LinkedIn message if you have someone in common mention them. A referral is one of the best ways to get advice or assistance.
Don’t make a demand. It’s much better to make a suggestion or ask for advice than it is to dictate to someone.
For example, “Would you be able to give me feedback on my resume, if time permits?” sounds much better than “Please review my resume and get back to me.” Being polite and asking will get you further than telling someone what they should do.
Keep it short. Most people skim emails and rarely read beyond the first paragraph or so. Keep your message short – 2 or 3 paragraphs at the most. Don’t include more than a few sentences in each paragraph. Leave a space between each paragraph and another space before your closing and signature.
Do be clear about why you’re writing. Your email message should clearly state who you are, why you are writing and what you’re requesting from the reader. Use the first paragraph to introduce yourself, the second for your request, and the third to thank the reader for his or her consideration.
Use a simple font. Use a simple font (like Calibri, Times New Roman, or Arial) and a font size that is easy to read. An 11 or 12-point font size is readable without having to squint. Here’s how to select a font style and size.
Pick a professional closing. Your closing is almost as important as your introduction. End your email with short professional closing. Here’s how to end a letter with examples of good closings to use.
Include a signature. Make it easy for the person you’re emailing to get back in touch with you. Include a signature with your full name, email address, and phone number. Include your mailing address if you’re asking for a written response or to have something to be sent to you. Here’s how to set up your email signature.
Proofread and spell check. When you’re introducing yourself, it’s important to proofread and spell check your message prior to sending it. You’ve only got one chance to make a good impression, and a typo can get your email message trashed.
Send a test message. To be sure your message is perfect, send it to yourself first so you can double check how it reads and to give it a final look over to be sure it’s what you want to send.
Bcc: Yourself. It’s always a good idea to Bcc: (blind carbon copy) yourself on the message.
You’ll have a record of sending it, and you’ll be able to easily refer back to it for follow-up communications.
Examples of Email Introductory Subject Lines
- Introduction From [Your Name]
- Inquiring About Opportunities
- I Found You Through [Alumni Network, LinkedIn, Professional Association, etc.)
- [Name] Recommended I Contact You
- [Name] Suggested I Reach Out
- Referral From [Name]
- Referred By [Name]
When you are introducing two other people to each other:
- Introduction: [Name] - [Name]
- Introducing [Name] to [Name]
- Connecting: [Name] - [Name]
- [Name] and [Name] Introduction
Examples of Email Introductions
Dear Ms. Smith,
My name is Marcus Anderson, and I’m writing to ask for your assistance. I’d very much appreciate your help and advice.
Hi First Name,
My name is Cynthia, and I work for a tech recruiting firm called ABCD recruiting. Hope you're well! I’d love to tell you more about an event we’re launching.
Introduction With a Referral
Dear Ms. Smith,
I am a friend of Alisa Markers, and she encouraged me to forward my resume to you. Alisa and I worked on several projects together, and she thought that you might be able to help me with my job search.
Email Introducing Someone Else
Hope this finds you well! I’m reaching out today to introduce my colleague Samantha Billings, who recently joined our company and is taking over communications for DBC Company.
Review Examples: Sample Introduction Emails and Letters
Suggested Reading: Guidelines for Writing a Professional Email Message | How to Format an Email Message