Three reasons your follow-up emails are failing

Kathie Jurek
Apr 22 · 4 min read

How many times have you sat in front of a blank email, ready to write a follow up but feeling stuck about what to say?

I already said everything important in my first message, you might think. How can I keep my prospects interested and persuade them to respond?

No matter how tempting it might be, writing a generic follow-up is a waste of time. Take a look at this email from an in-house recruiter checking in again about a job opportunity at a large social networking platform:

Hi Frank,

Hope all is well! I wanted to follow up on the message I sent you last week. Hope I’m not being a pest, but I’m really impressed by your experience/background and would love to get a chance to chat about SWE opportunities at [COMPANY].

Hope to hear from you either way!


Writing generic cold emails and blasting them out to every lead or qualified candidate can get you results… eventually. But it’s not as effective as taking a little more time to craft something different from the usual “Just following up…”

Here’s three reasons why this follow-up fell flat — and why yours might be failing, too.

Too generic

This message is so generic and bland that it could come from any company, in any industry, in any part of the world. It doesn’t have information about what this role entails and why Frank should be interested in working for them.

Even if this recruiter doesn’t know what role they’d like to pitch, they could make this email more specific by talking about how his experience ties in with what their team does, or a quality their company embodies.

For example, he could point to Frank’s experience with AI and say…

Our team at [COMPANY] is doing exciting things with natural language processing for chatbots. I’d love to have a quick call with you and then connect you to Linda, the team lead, so she can tell you more about what they’re working on.

Or even…

Your experience starting your own business would really fit well with the entrepreneurial nature of our teams at [COMPANY]. Would you like to have a 10-minute call sometime this week to hear how we’ve structured our engineering teams to empower leads to tackle big problems?

Both of these examples are far more specific without going deep into the technical details of the position. They also provide solid ground for an interesting conversation and give Frank an idea of what he’ll learn and how he might benefit if he decides to get in touch.

Empty flattery

Most of us can tell when someone isn’t being sincere. When a date compliments your eyes or your boss compliments you for “working hard” instead of pointing to all your late nights or projects you completed ahead of schedule, it’s not much of a mood booster.

Empty flattery like “I’m really impressed with your experience” or “I love what you’re doing at your company” rings hollow and doesn’t help persuade someone you’re worth talking to. It could make your lead feel like one of many, which isn’t a good way to get a positive response.

Instead of empty flattery, find a point of connection or a genuine compliment:

After looking at your GitHub, I was impressed by your successful contributions and mastery of C++. We’re searching for someone with a talent in natural language processing to help us improve the patient-provider relationship.

That’s still a slightly generic compliment (ideally, you should point to a specific project and outcome), but it’s a great starting point.

Lacking context

Most people hesitate to go over the same or similar points in a follow-up email that they talked about in their initial email. However, the odds that Frank read your initial email are slim and even if they did, they aren’t going to go digging in their inbox to find it.

That’s why referencing past messages (“I wanted to follow up on the message I sent last week”) is a bad idea. Treat every follow up email like it’s the first email. Imagine your reader has no context and no idea what you said before. Every follow-up is a blank slate and a new opportunity to pitch another benefit of the job or product you’re trying to sell them on.

Need help with failing cold emails? We’re here for you.

Kathie Jurek

Written by

Kathie is a content creator and seasoned creative with a talent for understanding your audience’s desires. Learn more about her work at