by Brian DeChesare Comments (143)

How to Turn Cold Calls Warm, Follow-Up and Avoid Awkward Alumni Conversations

cold call networkingOk, Kevin and I received a ton of great questions from everyone over the past few weeks on networking.

We finally had a chance to sit down and record this Q&A session the other day.

One small problem: it turned out to be so long that we split it up into two parts (I know, I know, you really wanted to listen to 2 hours straight of networking banter, right?).

Here’s Part 1:


Here’s a quick summary of the questions we cover within:

Finding Names and Contact Information

Quite a few readers asked about how to find names and contact information in the first place – here are a few questions we address:

“How about for people who do not know consultants or even finance people? How do you build those names and meet those people in the first place?”

“How would you approach making contact with complete strangers at different firms that you are interested in?”

Recession Recruiting

Aside from making it way harder to actually find a job in the first place, the recession has also pushed senior bankers out and to different firms – which can complicate your networking efforts.

“What is the next best step for recruiting in a firm when your only contact within the firm found out you will be laid off before you are ready to utilize him to break into the company?”

“Do you have any tips on getting in touch with former senior colleagues?”

Turning Cold Calls Into Warm Calls

There were dozens of questions on cold calls, but they all boil down to the same basic question: How do you successfully cold-call banks? Here’s what we discuss:

“I was wondering what the dos and don’ts for cold calling are in general? On the outline it appears to have great potential. Most of my colleagues however discard cold calling outright. Is it a strategy you would recommend?”

Following-Up with Your Contacts

Once you’ve contacted your alumni, made your cold-calls, and met industry contacts anywhere else, how do you properly follow-up and win interviews and then offers? Here’s what we answer:

“If you’ve done a lot of cold calling with several different firms, how do you exactly followup after the initial call?”

“Is there any way to keep in touch with senior partners even if you don’t have a reason why to follow-up and instead you just want to keep in contact?”

“Also if you could please talk about how can they follow-up after an MD or analyst showed interest in their resume”

“Over time, as you contact alumni, the numbers will accumulate. How would one go about maintaining these contacts before recruiting season and then when the time comes, how do you make the ask?”

“After meeting someone whom I would like to network with at a networking event, what is the appropriate follow-up? What is a good way to keep in touch?”

“When the time comes, how do you make the ask for opportunities to interview?”

Awkward Alumni

Some readers are still struggling with contacting alumni and sounding natural. Hint: pretend you’re speaking with a friend, and avoid focusing on work-related topics.

“I contacted some alumni in the past with a phone conversations that eventually became Q&A, it felt very awkward and a little bit dry. If you had mentees contacting you in the past, how would you suggest making the conversation more interesting, getting to know them personally and even establishing a friendship. What kind of mentees are mentors looking for and what’s their incentive as a mentor for sharing information with someone who they don’t know?”

Next up will be Part 2, where we cover how to network while abroad, move to different groups, develop relationships during your internship, and address some finance and consulting-specific topics.

M&I - Brian

About the Author

Brian DeChesare is the Founder of Mergers & Inquisitions and Breaking Into Wall Street. In his spare time, he enjoys memorizing obscure Excel functions, editing resumes, obsessing over TV shows, traveling like a drug dealer, and defeating Sauron.

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  1. Hello. If I want to connect with people on LinkedIn should my first message ask for a ten-minute phone call to learn about their experiences? DO you have any LinkedIn cold message template?

    1. No. LinkedIn is fine for finding people, but for actually contacting them, email is far better. LinkedIn messages can work if you keep them very short, but we almost always recommend email as the first step.

  2. Hi Nicole,

    I recently sent an off-cycle internship inquiry email to an elite boutique IB (I got the email address from my friend who just done an internship there) and the HR replied the other day to ask me when I could start, how long I’m available and my career plan after graduation. I answered her but heard nothing after that and it’s been 2 days now. Now it really confuses me. Is the last repay just being polite or they really have some interest in me and they need to discuss this with senior people? Should I send a another email to follow up? If so, how should I phrase more appropriately?

    Thanks a lot.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes I’d send another email to follow up with HR. Just send her a brief message thanking her for her time to speak and asking her if she’s got any updates re. roles.

      Yes these are standard questions HR raise; just because they raise these questions doesn’t really mean anything so I wouldn’t take it too seriously

      1. Right I see. Thanks Nicole. I just send her an email and lower my expectations :(

  3. Hi Brian,

    I’m a rising sophomore at a non-target university. I’m majoring in finance and dreaming about breaking in investment banking. Around four months ago I met with MD at investment bank at a networking dinner organized by school. He was very open and shared his story about how he got to where he is now. After the dinner I followed up with him by email and he said he’d be glad to keep in touch. The question is, how to maintain communication with him? I’d really want to get to know him closer and develop good long-term relationship but I’d also want to get an internship at his firm next summer. Any advice on that?
    PS: he’s an alumnae from my school

    Thank you so much in advance!

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I’d send him an email from time to time, and perhaps request an informational meeting/coffee close to his office. You may want to do research on him to see if you have any common interests (other than your school) so this can help your conversation!

  4. Hi!

    I am an undergraduate senior and am graduating this December. I have started cold-calling banks near my hometown in the midwest, but some people have told me to expand my reach and call firms in the south/southwest. My question is, if they call me and want to meet, will they expect me to fly out and pay for my own expenses? Am I supposed to front that cost for a potential job?


    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      It depends on the firms. The established ones are likely to pay for your expenses. If they don’t offer, you can ask, especially if they ask you to meet them in their offices.

  5. Hi guys

    Am currently working in middle office of a large bank, was wondering if I could “cold email” (using the intranet system) MDs from IB arm of the bank.

    Some stats about me : Am almost at the end of my 3 month summer internship. Am a freshman, and also the youngest intern. Very passionate about breaking into i-bank industry, read FT, WSJ and dealbook etc everyday and have already warmed up 3 contacts at the top ibank I want to ultimately work, but want to make full use of my time here in this bank too.

    Please advice. Appreciate this site so much, a million thanks to Brian and Nicole!

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes, if you’re at the end of your internship, most definitely cold-email one of the MDs and ask to grab coffee.

  6. Hi, if I’m looking to try and cold-call places to ask for an interview but I live in a different city where it would be too expensive for me to go down for an interview what am I supposed to do?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      You may want to cold-call and set up informational calls first. If you were to be interviewing in a different city, most banks will cover your travel expenses.

  7. Hi,

    I have applied for some Hedge Fund jobs through online job postings, but have not heard back from the firms. It has been about 4 weeks since I applied (which basically only included submitting my resume through online job portals or my school’s job board).

    I wanted to follow up on my applications. Is it a good idea to email the firms, or should I forget the email & straightaway call them up?

    Also, can you give a template of the email I should use.


    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I don’t think you’d get much from emailing/calling these firms because you haven’t personally developed a relationship with the people there. If you have, then I’d email that specific person and follow up. No we don’t have an email template for that.

      1. Thanks Nicole,

        I haven’t developed a relationship with people at these firms, but now that I have applied, I wanted to follow up instead of just letting my application die away. Between emailing & calling, what would you choose, and how would you go about structuring the email / conversation? Thanks!

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          If you haven’t developed a relationship with people at these firms, I believe it will be more difficult to follow up to be honest. I’d suggest calling HR rather than emailing them because its not likely that they will respond to your email. You may find this article useful. Just be concise and straightforward, and ask if there’s any way you can increase your chances going forward

  8. Since summer recruiting is over for most banks, what would be a good mini-ask for a conversation with an alumni at a BB bank? I go to a non-target but was able to get a call through an honors program we both are a part of.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I would speak with him/her re. your passion in the industry, ask him/her for their thoughts on the industry and advice, and ask him/her to keep you in mind of any upcoming opportunities etc. I wouldn’t push it too much at first because you haven’t established a connection with him/her

      1. Thanks for the reply. I also have a chance to meet live with a VP at a boutique after having a informational interview that went well. What would be the best way to make a mini-ask for a possible internship with their bank even if I will be willing to do it unpaid?

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          If you’re younger and want to use this strategy, I would state this upfront (“I wanted to ask about unpaid summer intern openings…”) only if you’re going for the tiny, no-name, 3-4 person firms. Even most “boutique,” middle-market, and other, smaller banks have formal recruiting processes in place and will not be receptive to this approach – so I’d save it for an objection rebuttal if it comes up.

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