The art of letters of introduction
Last month, I highlighted the importance of obtaining exploratory meetings with as many key decision-makers as possible. Even if no physical job exists, your persuasiveness and expertise may convince someone to make room for you.
We often think that such events only happen for the rich and famous, but I know from experience that everyday people can carve a lucrative niche for themselves without being rich or famous. The key to making this phenomenon happen is belief in one’s expertise, targeted networking, and leveraging these elements to create a powerful marketing tool: the letter of introduction.
What is an introduction cover letter?
A letter of introduction is a letter that is sent to an employer or networking contact when one is asking for career assistance. Prior to sending a formal letter of introduction, an informal letter of introduction can be sent by a colleague or common acquaintance. It can be sent by email or in letter form, since the writer and the intended reader have a relationship.
A letter of introduction asking for career help should be sent in letter form or by email. The more formal tone of a letter would be considered more professional than the email.
A letter of introduction should begin by establishing how the writer and the person being referred know each other. It then asks the reader to consider the candidate for an exploratory meeting and the reasons why the writer thinks this request should be obliged.
It then tells the reader that the candidate will be getting in contact with her or him about obtaining an in-person meeting. This is not a job interview in the traditional sense, but it should be approached with the same level of professionalism. Remember, you are always being assessed, and a poor impression could close the door to any consideration should a job opportunity arise.
Once the initial introduction has been made, follow up on any tasks you committed to. For example, if you stated in your letter of introduction that you would contact the employer or key decision-maker to set up an appointment, be sure to do so. If there is no follow-up, the employer may not view you as a serious prospector. Lack of follow-up may also cast a negative reflection on the referral.
Do your homework
Research the company and the person you are meeting. Including a statement that references familiarity with the company’s current events shows professionalism and interest. Linked In is a great resource for researching professionals. Here are some resources you can use to research a company: Business Wire, WetFeet.com, Hoover’s Online, Annual Reports Library, Forbes Lists of Best Companies, Thomas Register, Wright Research Center, EarningsWhispers.com
Lock in the date
A letter of introduction should never be generic. Clearly state in your letter a) your reason for wanting to meet with the contact, b) a brief synopsis of your current status, and c) dates and times of availability.
Be persistent and send a reminder if you do not hear back from the contact within the week. Wait at least seven days before sending a reminder. If you do not get a response, check with your common colleague to see if the contact information is correct.
Keep your request for a meeting to one or two sentences only. Prospective employers do not need to know your life story. If an additional explanation is needed, you’ll be asked during your meeting. Once you craft your first letter of introduction, it can be used as a template for future requests.
Tammy McIntyre is owner of McIntyre Employment Service, an agency providing individuals and small businesses with career development services. She welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.