Before email, writing a letter of introduction was a fussier affair. It involved nice paper, ink, and delivery by a human being. In various eras and cultures, letters introduced individuals hoping to join polite society, secure employment, or win a thumbs-up from a potential spouse’s parents. Such letters, especially when written by respected mutual acquaintances, opened doors.
Physical letters aren’t common anymore, but reasons for written introductions are still with us–especially in business, e.g. introducing a friend to an employer, a new hire to a team, or an entrepreneur to an investor. Luckily, email makes introductions easier to draft, revise and send. But the obligation to write a well-constructed one remains the same. Here are some best practices to help you craft professional, effective email introductions.
Before You Write
- Ask yourself: Should I make this introduction? You should see an upside for both parties. Introducing a coworker taking on your old responsibilities to your contacts in other departments benefits everyone involved. It gets stickier when acquaintances ask for job introductions that are tough to justify. You could jeopardize personal and professional relationships with introductions that are clear non-starters or result in a predictable poor fit.
- Ask the proposed recipient if they’re open to the introduction before sending the email. They might not want to be connected directly or at all with the other party. They might not want their email address and other contact information to be shared. Maybe their job opening was filled. Find out first.
- Don’t make promises to either side. You can’t guarantee to your employer that your brother-in-law will become the company’s top sales rep within three months if they hire him. Make the intro, then excuse yourself from the conversation. Let them take it from there.
Compose Your Message
- Straightforward subject lines are best. “Introduction: Heather Brooks, UX Designer & Quincy Lee, Pies By Mail,” is easy to understand at a glance. And it includes “introduction,” both parties’ names and other searchable terms that will make the email easy to find in a crowded inbox.
- Include a simple, pleasant greeting and opening, like, “Hello Heather and Quincy,” and “I’m happy to introduce you at last!” Then get to the reason for the intro. For instance, “Quincy, Heather designed the innovative UX for the Cakes, Inc. e-commerce site you admire. She’s interested in your Pies By Mail UX team.”
- Use an appropriate tone. Yesteryear’s formality isn’t needed, but professionalism is always recommended. Be courteous and use positive language.
- Double-check what you’ve said and how you’ve said it. Even if you have friendly relationships with each of the parties, you’re still creating a document for professional purposes. Check out SaneBox’s tips on business email etiquette.
- Grammar matters. Run your email’s grammar and spell-check once more, right before you press send. Names, phone numbers (included only if appropriate) and email addresses? You’re on your own to make sure they’re correct.
Congrats! You’ve made a sincere effort to initiate a conversation that could lead to events as significant as a talented acquaintance starting a new career, or a struggling small business owner linking up with a mentor. (Keep in mind: You can e-introduce yourself to someone with whom you have no connection. Most of what we suggest above applies to this situation too.) We’re a long way from quill-and-parchment introductions, but digital technology hasn’t deleted the need to connect people.