Cold Call Email Mistake Made - Sharing Response (Advice) Received

hey everyone,

first time posting...

Trying to break into PE or IB and have been hitting hard these days, cold-emailing relevant professionals.

So today I reached out to a VP at an investment bank who is also an alumni, asking for an informational interview over the phone.

He got back to me within 15 minutes...!

But with some solid advice that I felt is good for anyone who's in my shoes and reaching out to professionals for informational interviews.

Here's what I wrote to him...

==============

Hi VP,

I am a recent Data Science graduate from [Alma Mater] and I came across your name in the [Alma Mater] alumni database.

I am trying to understand more about the investment banking sector and I was wondering if you could spare a few minutes to talk to me about your work at [Bank Name] and the peculiarities of covering the retail and consumer sectors [which he covers]

I can only imagine how busy you must be, so even 15-20 minutes would really help!

Bests,
moosemason

===============

Note: I couldn't find his work email address (used mailtester )but got his personal gmail so I emailed him there.

Here was his response...

====================

Hi moosemason,

Making the transition into IB, if that is your goal, will be difficult judging from your background. That said, I am unaware of why you reaching out to me or asking about C&R. There are many resources online about IB. I recommend starting here.

Conversations in your desired industry are definitely a good use or your time in finding your next job. Outreach is critical component. Your message here tells me you are not yet focused enough in your search to specifically require my insights versus someone else's.

I recommend continuing to hone the focus of your job search, be clear in your reason for reaching out, and make sure the person you are reaching out to understands and appreciates why they (and not anyone else) are a logical outreach. Importantly, no one wants to be your first call, so make sure to show some initiative/work on your part. People are more motivated to help someone cross the finish line than give them general bearings in an industry.

Good luck here. Hope this helps in the search.

Thanks,
VP

====================

I don't need to decipher this for anyone but hope this helps.

Cheers!

P.S. Any advice on how to do a better job reaching out or in any other way is more than welcomed :))

EDIT #1

I have considerable grasp of IB and PE (mostly theoretical though, no experience) than my email shows. I was just trying to be brief and 'to the point'. Need to do a better job at being specific but concise enough!

EDIT #2

A bit about my profile, since it came up in one of the responses:

I'm not a fresh graduate. I'm 28yo Canadian, just got my Master's (from a Top10 business school) last fall in Europe. Before that I worked as an engineer for 4 years. I'm now trying to switch industries (into IB but my target is PE) and targeting US.

EDIT #3

Why I reached out to this guy....

I didn't reach out to him because he's a VP.

Honestly, the only reason I reached out to him was because he is an alumni that I knew I could reach out to. May be that's a terrible reason but bear with me...!

I got my Master's from one of the top business schools in Europe but there are **VERY ** few alumni in US, especially in IB and PE is non-existent in US/Canada. So, needless to say, networking with alumni is very difficult. Based on my very limited cold-calling experience so far, alumni response rate is almost 50% while non-alumni reponse rate is hardly 10%. So, to build my network in US, I'm reaching out to as many alumni as I can (which there are very few).

Hope this gives some context.

Comments (24)

Most Helpful
May 23, 2018

Dude, this guy is an enormous dick. I thought your email was very appropriate OP. Serious.

What VP has the time and energy to hash out an email like this. If he was so annoyed or though it was poorly written, he could have just ignored it and moved on.

I thought you were polite, stated you wanted to learn more about IB, and more specifically about the sector he is covering. That's fine.

Seriously, his email does not make sense to me.

**Conversations in your desired industry are definitely a good use or your time in finding your next job. Outreach is critical component. Your message here tells me you are not yet focused enough in your search to specifically require my insights versus someone else's." * *WHAT? Sounds pretty focused that you found him, an alumni, and reached out for help(which is totally a numbers game by the way, fire off 10-20 emails expecting maybe 20% response rate).

*"I recommend continuing to hone the focus of your job search, be clear in your reason for reaching out, and make sure the person you are reaching out to understands and appreciates why they (and not anyone else) are a logical outreach." * Again, you WERE clear why you reached out, and why he is a logical outreach(alumni, want to learn more about C/R IB).

*"Importantly, no one wants to be your first call, so make sure to show some initiative/work on your part." * He has no idea he was your first call. He's totally being dick here.

Just move on OP, the next alumni will hopefully not be a douche canoe like this guy.

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May 24, 2018

Thanks for your response @wherethefisdonny

wherethefisdonny:

What VP has the time and energy to hash out an email like this. If he was so annoyed or though it was poorly written, he could have just ignored it and moved on.

That's what I thought too. He was so quick and detailed in his response.

    • 1
May 24, 2018

Notice how OP has already graduated from university. This is important as her email is fine, but fine for a curious freshman/sophomore. Should have a good grasp of banking, modeling, and basic knowledge on the VPs industry if you're reaching out as a graduate.

What concert costs 45 cents? 50 Cent feat. Nickelback.

May 24, 2018

Thanks @Jamie_Diamond

Yeah, I have considerable more grasp of IB than my email shows. I was just trying to be brief and 'to the point'. Need to do a better job at being specific but concise enough!

I guess I should clarify a bit more about my profile (I think it will make me look much worse now...!)

I'm not a fresh graduate. I'm 28yo Canadian, just got my Master's in Data Science last fall in Europe. Before that I worked as an engineer for 4 years. I'm now trying to switch industries (into IB but my target is PE) and targeting US.

May 25, 2018

It's likely the VP got reamed earlier and is just stressed out.

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May 25, 2018

I think he actually offered some solid advice. Your email to him looks like a generic template that you can send to anyone. Always include a sentence or two that pertains specifically to the person you are emailing, his group, a deal they worked on, etc.

He did more than the 9 out of 10 people who would just ignore your email.

    • 1
May 26, 2018

I think the VP made a lot of presumptions about the OP and didn't answer anything the OP was asking. Why was it so important to the VP to give this specific advice rather than taking the OP up on his actual questions about ib and share his perspectives on it? Sounds to me like the VP was narrow minded and short sighted to think that the OP could not have carried a conversation with well-prepared, specific questions. I would also argue that the VP assumed he would not benefit from having a conversation with the OP. If the VP required more "specificity", he could have asked for detailed questions before turning down the OP.

Conclusion: OP I wouldn't worry, it wasn't personal, and I think the VP acted a bit inappropriately here. They will hopefully have a more constructive approach with students in the future.

May 24, 2018

I'm in a similar situation, cold calling and emailing prop firm and I honestly wish I received such a detailed response!

Here the best response I have have ever received from head of trading I reached out to ' We still do not have any suitable opportunities at the current time. I thank you for your interest. We will be in touch if something suitable materialises' which gives me nothing to work with.

This guy basically wants you to look him up and speak to him about specific achievements of his Your message here tells me you are not yet focused enough in your search to specifically require my insights versus someone else's * *I recommend continuing to hone the focus of your job search, be clear in your reason for reaching out, and make sure the person you are reaching out to understands and appreciates why they (and not anyone else) are a logical outreach.-

Essentially, he is telling you to butter him up.

May 24, 2018
a5hleybmw:

I'm in a similar situation, cold calling and emailing prop firm and I honestly wish I received such a detailed response!

Yeah, I gotta give him that..! At least he took the time to respond. Will definitely send him an email thanking for his time.

a5hleybmw:

Essentially, he is telling you to butter him up.

Hmmm.... will do more research on him and C&R then and will hit him up in a few weeks once I have some solid questions for him.

May 24, 2018

Hmmm, I see nothing wrong with the VP's response. It seems like he is mildly annoyed but more importantly, he is giving you good advice. If you reach out to 20 VPs with the same email I would bet my money this is still the best response you will get out of it..

You need to be more targeted when you are emailing people, particularly when it is someone of a senior position that probably receives a ton of this stuff. Your email just sounds like a generic template, and anyone who has ever sent cold emails before can tell from the get-go that you just copy-pasted the same thing, changed a few words here and there, and mass fired the email to as many people as you could find. Maybe if you are emailing someone who hasn't received that many requests for chats before, it's fine; but for someone who has received a ton of requests for chats, they have clearly seen better candidates with more focused emails, and why should they take the same time with you?

Here are some points you could improve upon with your original email:

"I am a recent Data Science graduate from [Alma Mater] and I came across your name in the [Alma Mater] alumni database."
Don't tell them how you found them, unless it is 1) through a mutual connection 2) it makes them feel better about themselves. If you found them on a news article about a deal he was a part of and his name was mentioned, sure tell them that; but if you are just mindlessly copy pasting random names from an alumni database, why tell them that unless they specifically ask?

"I am trying to understand more about the investment banking sector and I was wondering if you could spare a few minutes to talk to me about your work at [Bank Name] and the peculiarities of covering the retail and consumer sectors [which he covers]"
Any single analyst at [Bank Name] covering C&R could answer this, so why specifically are you reaching out to a VP? If you are going to reach out to a VP, you better make sure you are doing so because he can tell you things that analysts and associates can't, and specifically tell him that.

For example, you can specifically ask about - in the email - his banking career and reasons why he loves/has stayed long enough to reach the VP position and not just dip like everyone else, things he has learned over the years that junior employees generally don't see, etc etc...the point is he is a VP, and if you don't narrow the scope down to make him feel like only he is able to help you out, not just any other analyst at the bank, he is not gonna respond to you. And this makes perfect sense - if your family friend knows you are really busy and still ask you to tutor his second-grade daughter in math for free, while you have 5 different siblings in middle and high school who have significantly more free time, wouldn't you just scratch your head and be like "why are you wasting my time?" This is a bad comparison but I hope you can see the point.

Furthermore, "I am trying to understand more about the investment banking sector" just makes you sound uncertain and not knowing anything about IB. An analyst might be happy to explain to you what M&A means and what C&R entails; a VP would not: again that goes back to what I mentioned earlier, can an analyst answer everything you are going to ask the VP? For what I know you might already know everything there is to know about investment banking, but from the tone of "I am trying to understand" the gist the VP probably got was "I don't know anything". In that case, why reach out to the VP? Again, an analyst would be able to answer everything!

If I were you and have just begun to try to reach out to people, I would honestly stick with analysts for now. And even if it's just analysts you are reaching out I would be more specific and targeted with my emails, because analysts are also very busy and have no shortage of keen kids reaching out to them for help. Also, if you are trying to get a phone interview, this email does nothing to show that.

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May 24, 2018

First of all, thanks so much @TheZhanMan for such a detailed response. Appreciate it!

TheZhanMan:

Hmmm, I see nothing wrong with the VP's response. It seems like he is mildly annoyed but more importantly, he is giving you good advice. If you reach out to 20 VPs with the same email I would bet my money this is still the best response you will get out of it..

Agreed! I'm gonna send out a Thank you email shortly.

TheZhanMan:

You need to be more targeted when you are emailing people, particularly when it is someone of a senior position that probably receives a ton of this stuff. Your email just sounds like a generic template, and anyone who has ever sent cold emails before can tell from the get-go that you just copy-pasted the same thing, changed a few words here and there, and mass fired the email to as many people as you could find. Maybe if you are emailing someone who hasn't received that many requests for chats before, it's fine; but for someone who has received a ton of requests for chats, they have clearly seen better candidates with more focused emails, and why should they take the same time with you?

Here are some points you could improve upon with your original email:

"I am a recent Data Science graduate from [Alma Mater] and I came across your name in the [Alma Mater] alumni database."
Don't tell them how you found them, unless it is 1) through a mutual connection 2) it makes them feel better about themselves. If you found them on a news article about a deal he was a part of and his name was mentioned, sure tell them that; but if you are just mindlessly copy pasting random names from an alumni database, why tell them that unless they specifically ask?

Makes sense. Will do!

TheZhanMan:

"I am trying to understand more about the investment banking sector and I was wondering if you could spare a few minutes to talk to me about your work at [Bank Name] and the peculiarities of covering the retail and consumer sectors [which he covers]"
Any single analyst at [Bank Name] covering C&R could answer this, so why specifically are you reaching out to a VP? If you are going to reach out to a VP, you better make sure you are doing so because he can tell you things that analysts and associates can't, and specifically tell him that.

For example, you can specifically ask about - in the email - his banking career and reasons why he loves/has stayed long enough to reach the VP position and not just dip like everyone else, things he has learned over the years that junior employees generally don't see, etc etc...the point is he is a VP, and if you don't narrow the scope down to make him feel like only he is able to help you out, not just any other analyst at the bank, he is not gonna respond to you. And this makes perfect sense - if your family friend knows you are really busy and still ask you to tutor his second-grade daughter in math for free, while you have 5 different siblings in middle and high school who have significantly more free time, wouldn't you just scratch your head and be like "why are you wasting my time?" This is a bad comparison but I hope you can see the point.

Yeah, I can definitely see your point. I need to work on my emails.

TheZhanMan:

Furthermore, "I am trying to understand more about the investment banking sector" just makes you sound uncertain and not knowing anything about IB. An analyst might be happy to explain to you what M&A means and what C&R entails; a VP would not: again that goes back to what I mentioned earlier, can an analyst answer everything you are going to ask the VP? For what I know you might already know everything there is to know about investment banking, but from the tone of "I am trying to understand" the gist the VP probably got was "I don't know anything". In that case, why reach out to the VP? Again, an analyst would be able to answer everything!

Agreed! I need to work on wording me email better. I know considerable amount on IB (definitely don't need a primer!).

Honestly, the only reason I reached out to him was because he is an alumni that I knew I could reach out to. May be that's a terrible reason but bear with me...!

I got my Master's from one of the top business schools in Europe but there are **VERY ** few alumni in US, especially in IB and PE is non-existent in US/Canada. So, needless to say, networking with alumni is very difficult. Based on my very limited cold-calling experience so far, alumni response rate is almost 50% while non-alumni reponse rate is hardly 10%. So, to build my network in US, I'm reaching out to as many alumni as I can.

I didn't reach out to him because he's a VP.

Hope this explains my situation.

TheZhanMan:

If I were you and have just begun to try to reach out to people, I would honestly stick with analysts for now. And even if it's just analysts you are reaching out I would be more specific and targeted with my emails, because analysts are also very busy and have no shortage of keen kids reaching out to them for help. Also, if you are trying to get a phone interview, this email does nothing to show that.

Good to hear how my email comes across to you. I'll work on that.

My goal with this email was to get VP on the phone so I can learn more about his career post his graduation from our uni, pretty much learn his story and see if I can gain some pointers from that. Secondly, may be he would have been able to give me some advice or point me in the right direction, or suggest that I should talk to more relevant people that he knows based on my story, which I was hoping to tell him. Hopefully this makes sense!

Thanks again @TheZhanMan for the pointers!

May 25, 2018

If you are indeed such a great candidate from a top business school, you should proposition yourself as such. Since you said you wanted an "informational interview", your goal should be to present yourself to be as capable as possible. Furthermore, if you and the VP share the same background, then you need to bring that up in the email! I think it's a great mistake not to mention something like "my goal is to break into the finance industry in the US, and I would love to see how you, coming from the same background as me, were able to do so". That would have given him a significantly greater incentive to speak with you.

May 24, 2018

I agree that your outreach email was perfectly fine. If you're struggling to get in contact with alumni, there are a few services out there where you can pay to talk 1 on 1 with entry-level bankers. Cost a bit, but they'll give you good advice and sometimes put you into the recruitment process directly

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May 24, 2018

Thanks @AtADesk

This is the first time I'm hearing of these services but I'll do some research on WSO. I know of a similar service GoGetCoffee, but it's mainly focused on UK.

Are there any services you'd recommend for US?

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May 27, 2018

Yeah, in the U.S., I know that The Lobby provides a similar service with a focus on IB. Let me know if that's useful at all for you

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May 24, 2018

I'll reiterate part of what Jamie said above with respect to being able to hone in on more targeted requests that you have for the VP. It's one thing if you're a fresh faced 18 year old college freshman and want some color on the industry, but as a graduate, you should understand that there is no shortage of online resources that cover investment banking. I think the VPs response is warranted. What can he provide you that BIWS, WSO, P&Q, etc. cannot? I think moving forward, frame your emails in a manner that shows that you've done your own research, understand the industry, but would benefit from being able to speak with a member of XYZ team to expand your network and leverage their experience to assist in your search for a position in their field. I would pay a lot of credence to his closing sentence: "People are more motivated to help someone cross the finish line than give them general bearings in an industry." Prove to him that you've done your legwork and that his time and effort is what is shoving you across the tape. Keep it up though, refine your process and you'll see dividends!

TL;DR: Work on being more targeted in your goals and how they can help you, prove you've done prior research, keep grinding

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May 24, 2018
LeveredBetaBoy:

I think moving forward, frame your emails in a manner that shows that you've done your own research, understand the industry, but would benefit from being able to speak with a member of XYZ team to expand your network and leverage their experience to assist in your search for a position in their field. I would pay a lot of credence to his closing sentence: "People are more motivated to help someone cross the finish line than give them general bearings in an industry." Prove to him that you've done your legwork and that his time and effort is what is shoving you across the tape. Keep it up though, refine your process and you'll see dividends!

TL;DR: Work on being more targeted in your goals and how they can help you, prove you've done prior research, keep grinding

Thanks a lot @LeveredBetaBoy

I agree with your feedback and the advice he gave me. I guess I have to learn how to balance between showing that I've done my research and being brief & to the point.

May 24, 2018

This VP is a good guy. If you are an experienced professional sending out an email that sounds like you are lazy and naive, what is the receiver supposed to do? The point here is to be more direct. The VP could have just ignored this unrefined, generic sounding message that came from a 28 year old. Instead he gave perspective and advice.

I had a similar experience but on call with the head of a shop. I was an inexperienced at the time, and this partner essentially trashed my approach to the entire conversation but ended up spending 45 minutes on a Friday afternoon giving me great tips on how to refine my networking skills and how to enter the industry. It wasn't the best outcome, but helpful nonetheless.

These criticisms come from a desire to help. It is easy to blow someone off, but telling the truth to a prospective candidate is a sincere gesture that most would not care to do. Thanks for sharing the story, OP.

May 25, 2018

Good advice, thanks for sharing.

PS: Single form of alumni is alumnus

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May 25, 2018

thanks @LiechtensteinMonkey
hhh... yeah I know that it's alumnus.... just used to saying alumni as slang...

May 27, 2018
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May 28, 2018
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