How To Make A Formal Request Via Email

Today’s post will be a short lesson in professional communication. I often get requests from job seekers in Nigeria to review CVs, and I am happy to do so at no charge.  What I find interesting is how these requests are made. “Hello, please help review my CV. Thank you.”  (More like; hello, pls help review my cv. 10ks.)

Hmmm. Okay? Who are you? Have we met before? How did you find me? There is no formal introduction, no word about how the person knows this is something I can do or where they heard about me, nothing. Just a quick, here is my CV, look at it. Was this random selection? Lol.

Let’s play out this scenario in a face to face encounter. There is never a time you randomly walk up to someone and make a request without briefly introducing yourself. Anyone who can pull this off without any backlash deserves an award. Courtesy demands that you provide a name and a brief explanation of why that particular interaction is necessary, after which you can launch into your request.

In the business/professional world, first impressions are lasting impressions, and there are simple rules for communicating with people you don’t know.

Introduce yourself

Every electronic communication should begin with a brief greeting. If this is a first time communication between the sender and the recipient, provide a name and the reason for emailing or contacting the individual.

Give some background

For a job application, it is useful to state where you saw the job advertisement (company website, listserv, internet, etc.). For a networking opportunity, mention how you came across the person’s profile (personal website, forum, through a friend, conference, referral, etc.). This information not only serves as an ice breaker, it also helps the recipient of your communication to know the reach of their brand or identity.

Make your request

It is important to be concise and go straight to the point. Also use a neutral tone and language in this part of your communication to avoid sounding arrogant, entitled or commanding.

Show appreciation

Time is money, and every minute spent on your request is a minute that could be invested elsewhere. A simple “thank you for your time” or “I appreciate the time spent in attending to my request” shows that you are not unaware of the sacrifice the individual is making to grant you an audience.

End on a good note

In concluding your message, ensure that you leave the door open for further correspondence. Phrases such as “I look forward to a response” or “I would appreciate some feedback” etc., are good indicators that you are attempting to establish a working relationship.

Avoid abbreviations and grammatical errors

This is one that I struggle with (no one is perfect). It is important to edit your letters for grammatical and spelling errors. Limit the use of abbreviations and short forms in professional correspondence. Remember, your words on paper/computer screen may be the only chance you have to make a good impression. Glaring errors makes one look sloppy and inattentive to details.



An email template that outlines the structure of your formal
request content and suggested language for asking for a favor.
* No email address required for download *

Please note that you are not required to write an epistle or tell your life’s story all because you are asking for a favor. However, being polite and courteous in your electronic correspondence with people is a good way to create a favorable first impression, especially since the person cannot see you/read your body language.

While I do not expect someone who is asking me to review a CV to write an essay just to get my attention, I appreciate those who are thoughtful and polite in their emails. It could be something as simple as the sample below.

The entire sample email is about 109 words long; it is polite, straight to the point and also very professional. While I won’t necessarily say no to a request because the person was abrupt, civility goes a long way in making people favorably disposed to whatever requests you are making.

Professionally yours,