How to introduce yourself in an email without coming across as too formal

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In the information age, introducing yourself through email – rather than face-to-face, is much more common than it has ever been. And believe it or not, cold emails aren’t always ineffective or trash-bound. If you use good technique, the chances will increase of your email being read. If you don’t know how to introduce yourself in an email, you’re going to want to keep reading.

You might be surprised at the impact of the language that you choose to use. Being too informal is always a risk, but believe it or not, being too formal is equally risky. 

If you don’t know how to introduce yourself in an email, keep in mind that it’s all about making a connection with another person.

“Your job is to connect the dots on who you are and why it makes sense for the two of you to work together,” said Cheryl Hyatt, Partner at HYATT-FENNELL Executive Search company. “Good connections are mutually beneficial. By connecting the dots you are showing how it makes sense for you to collaborate with them, whether that means a phone conversation, an interview, or a meeting. Be positive, genuine, and clear.”

In email introductions, the idea is to be confident and assertive, but also clear, direct, specific and to-the-point. After reading the first couple of sentences, he or she should have a good idea of who you are and what you want from them. 

Here is how to introduce yourself in an email without overdoing it and sounding too formal:

1: Start with a strong subject line

The subject line of your email is like the first 5 seconds of a commercial on television – if it doesn’t capture the interest of your audience, then you’ve probably lost the battle. 

Write a subject line that instantly grabs the attention of the reader. 

According to HubSpot, the best subject lines include several important elements, like curiosity and urgency, timeliness and personalization. 

Consider subject lines like:

  • Let’s go out for lunch
  • Hi from [Company]
  • Hey [Name], how about a happy hour?
  • I’d love to work for [Company]
  • I noticed you’re looking for a [Job Title]

Whenever possible, include personalization in the subject. For example, the middle example above includes the recipient’s name, which the recipient is far more likely to notice. 

Email subject lines help recipients sort and classify messages before they even open them, so help your recipient out by giving them some indication of why you are contacting them in your subject line. Even better is if you can deliver that indication and entice them to open the email at the same time. For subject lines, a good rule of thumb is to be specific, yet brief.

“A vague subject line such as ‘hello’ is at best uninteresting and at worst could appear like spam,” Hyatt said. “On the other end of the spectrum, an overly complicated subject line can make it seem like a chore to even read the subject line—much less delve into the email. Neither invites the recipient to engage with your email.”

2: Start your introduction email with your intent

Here’s a fun challenge. Pretend that you’re a hiring manager and you recently posted a job opportunity. Take a look at both of these example email introductions and think about what one sounds more compelling:

Hi! I’m Steve. I’m 25 years old and just graduated from college with a degree in information technology and I am very eager to start working”.

I just saw your [Job title] job opportunity, and I’ve never been so excited to start working for [Company] and put my IT degree to good use for an awesome company”.

If you’re like most people, the second example probably appeals more to you. 

And, this happens for several reasons. First, you personalized the email to your recipient. You included the exact job title of the opportunity and you also included the company name – both in the very first sentence. Believe it or not, this makes a big difference. 

Also, the beginning of the email is about them, not you. At least, not directly. The introduction is obviously about the job opportunity, and this person clearly wants to work for that company. 

Resist using a robotic greeting like “[Firstname] [Lastname],”. Instead, opt for something a little more inviting, like “Hi” or even “Hey”. And, using the Mr./Mrs./Ms. greetings can make you sound either young or overly formal. 

Too informal: “Yo Dude”. Too formal: “Mr. Samual Johnson”. 

Just about right: “Hi Samual”.  

3: Explain your intent in plain English

There is nothing that annoys me more than overly-formal language. 

In the examples in #2 above, we’ve clearly and directly explained the reason why we’re introducing ourselves in an email. In this case, we are interested in a job opportunity. But whatever the reason is, make your intention clear and understood at the very beginning. 

And, use regular English. Write as you might talk at a dinner party. 

For example, “Attached is my cover letter and resume for the [Job title] job opportunity”. 

Or “I would like to take you out to lunch (my treat) to talk about how [My Company] can help [Your Company] achieve [Achievement X, Y and Z]”.

Note: We don’t use big words or overly-formal language. Whenever possible, choose shorter words instead of longer derivatives. For example:

  • Own instead of possess
  • Talk instead of converse
  • Stop instead of cease
  • Get instead of obtain
  • Will instead of shall

I think you get the idea. Using overly-formal language generally won’t improve your chances of getting a response back from your email. 

Also, there’s something else in play, here. 

Notice the personalization in the examples in this section. In the second example – sent from a sales rep/business owner to a key decision-maker of a potential client, we’re specifically mentioning company names and pointed achievement goals. 

In almost all cases, email personalization grabs more interest and encourages many more replies and engagements than canned and generic emails. 

4: Offer them something in your introduction email

Introduction emails are generally sent because we want something from the other person. An invitation. An interview. But before you ask something of them, be sure to either compliment them or offer to add some sort of value to what they do. 

If you’re reaching out to an author, a sincere compliment about their book can work well, along with a passing mention that you’ve written (or will write) a glowing review on Amazon. 

Consider offering a tidbit of knowledge that he or she might find interesting. Or, it could just be a link to something useful. Maybe offer an introduction to someone else. 

In other words, don’t just ask something of them. Offer something of value, too. And don’t just wait until they respond to present this offer, because they may never get back to you. Show your value in the introduction email.

5: Use a strong call-to-action before wrapping up your introduction email

“We live in an age of information overload. One of the hallmarks of a good communicator is clarity: you help people cut through the noise by being clear and focused,” Hyatt said. “Emails should always end with a call to action that bridges the gap between this interaction and the next. A call to action provides a roadmap to follow, charting a path forward.”

Don’t end your email with something like, “Please take a look at my resume. Thanks!”. That’s neither a compelling nor confident call-to-action for the recipient.

Instead, be direct and ask specific questions, like, “After looking at my resume, can we schedule a quick interview?” 

Or  “Can I have a few minutes of your time? I promise to make it worth it. Check out my online calendar [<– link here] and choose a convenient time for you”. 

The intent here is not to be pushy. But, it is an opportunity for you to be clear and direct. You’re not beating around the bush with what you want. You’re asking the recipient for something specific and giving them the information and tools that they need to quickly say yes. 

“The more information you can provide your potential customers with your CTA, the better it will be for all parties involved,” writes Wordstream. It’s especially true with your email introduction. 

For example, if you’re asking for a phone call, include your number. If scheduling a time to meet, include either a phone number or a link to an online booking system for them to schedule a meeting time. 

After making your “ask” or call-to-action, end the email. Say “thanks” and let it go. Let the last meaningful line that they read be your call-to-action. 

What not to do when introducing yourself in an email

One of the most common mistakes that people make when introducing themselves via email is actually including too much in the email. People are busy, and most don’t have time, or won’t take the time, to read a five paragraph explanation about why you are reaching out to them.

“Often, individuals go into extensive explanations of why they decided to contact you or how they once met someone tangentially connected to you,” Hyatt said. “Attention is a scarce resource. One way to show courtesy is by being focused in your communication. ”

Sufficient communication:

“I enjoyed connecting at the CIC conference and am emailing to follow up on collaborating together on a community development initiative” is sufficient.

Overkill:

“We met at the Council of Independent Colleges conference at the Tuesday night mixer during which time we discussed the afternoon session on compliance risk. I work for a small college, which is why I really connected with your reflections in your lecture in the breakout session on Monday about admissions strategies. I was hoping we could continue our conversation about working together.”

Conclusion

The ideal email introduction is short, sweet and direct and written using everyday language that’s easy to read and understand. Include a clear call-to-action at the bottom, then end your email with a sincere “thank you”. Don’t let your email drag on. 

And, don’t feel ashamed to follow up after a few days, but resist hounding the person. Write one follow-up email – maybe two, max. If you still don’t get a response, then it’s probably not in the cards. 

Move on and keep your head up!