Many job seekers know that an informational interview is the perfect opportunity to meet someone at their dream company or in their dream profession. If you are fortunate enough to score one of these golden opportunities, make the most of it! Following are some tips to getting and capitalizing on the informational interview.
1. Make the Ask Appealing
Most professionals receive tons of requests for informational interviews. How do you set yours apart? Indicate in your letter why you would be worth their time. Describe your background and why you are interested in their profession or company. Show that you have done some research and know something about the profession and the company.
2. Make It a “Warm” Request
Do you know anyone who knows them? Maybe someone who knows someone who knows them or used to work for them. LinkedIn can be a great place to sleuth this out but beware: lots of people on LinkedIn accept requests from people with the most tenuous relationship to them. It can work though! I was trying to get an assignment from a company and when I checked out the profile of the hiring manager, I saw I was connected through an old friend of mine. But, this friend had more than 500 connections. Was this someone she had once met at a seminar or someone she had worked with? I emailed her and found out the contact I was trying to solicit had been in her wedding 15 years before. Bingo! I asked if I could name drop and she said absolutely.
3. Make It Easy for Them to Say Yes
Anyone is going to prefer a 30-minute meeting in their office to a potential lunch. Make your request succinct: I am new in town and looking to parlay my experience into a position at a Fortune 500 company like yours. Could I talk with you for a few minutes sometime over the next couple of weeks — even over the phone — about your position and the company? Obviously face-to-face is much preferred but you will take what you can get!
4. Be Prepared
Even though this is NOT a job interview, treat it like one. Research the company. Research your contact. Brush up on your elevator speech about who you are and what you are looking for and some of your recent accomplishments.
5. Have Great Questions Ready for Them
This person has agreed to spend time talking about their company, job or profession. Take advantage of that! Have great questions prepared such as:
- How did you get your job here?
- What is a typical day like?
- What other jobs have you had?
- What skills would you recommend someone like me cultivate?
- What are some challenges of this profession?
- Are there professional groups you would recommend I look into?
6. Do Not Leave Without Asking the Most Important Question:
- Is there anyone else you can suggest I talk to?
This is how you keep the chain going. Because any names they give you immediately turn into “warm calls” as we discussed above. If you tell Professional B that Professional A suggested you contact her, you can be pretty sure Professional B will say yes! And on it goes!
Keep in contact with the person who was so generous with their time. Send them a thank you note ASAP, but beyond that, aim to touch base every month or so. We have covered some ideas in past blog posts, but here are a few:
- Send them an article or link to something that you think might interest them.
- Follow them on social media and comment positively on their posts.
- If they connected you with someone who you subsequently met with, be sure to let them know and thank them again!
- Be judicious. As we’ve discussed before, no need to be a stalker or creepy. Just keep in touch with a natural flow and that will help keep you top of mind!
If information is power, then the informational interview can power you to your next position!
by Cathie Ericson