Part low-pressure networking opportunity, part information-gathering, information interviews have proven to be a highly effective job search tool… one you must use to get ahead!
In these one-on-one meetings, you talk with a professional from your desired field to learn more about their current line of work, their career history and obtain insider knowledge about the company (culture, availability of mentors, etc.).
Informational interviews are also a great opportunity to ask advice about how to achieve your own career goals. Here’s what else you should know about info interviews…
Who Should I Invite to an Informational Interview?
You can choose to reach out to someone in your network, or you can ask one of your connections to introduce you to someone who works in an area that you want to learn more about. It’s possible to send a ‘cold pitch’ email to someone you don’t have any connection, but having some sort of “in” definitely helps.
How Should I Reach Out to the Person I Want to Interview?
Email is probably the most convenient way to set up an interview, especially if you’re having a connection introduce you to someone new. They can “CC” you on the email to that person, which is like an automatic introduction if you take some initiative.
When writing the email to request an interview, make sure to state what kind of information or guidance you’re seeking. Then follow up by asking if he/she would be willing to meet with you to discuss these topics.
Example: “Hi Jane, I’ve recently become interested in the nonprofit sector, and I’d love to learn more about it. Since you’ve worked with XYZ organization for several years, I was wondering if you’d be willing to meet with me to answer some questions about your experience with nonprofits?”
Side note—if you have the person’s phone number and feel more comfortable reaching out that way, then by all means, go for it!
Where Should I Conduct the Interview?
Once you’ve reached out to the person you’d like to meet with–and they’ve expressed interest in wanting to meet with you–it’s best to ask him/her what location would be best. Some people may prefer to meet in an office setting, while others might want to meet in a more informal setting, like at a coffee shop. Both work just the same.
Before the Interview…
It helps to draft a list of questions that you’d like to ask, and bring it with so you don’t leave the interview with unanswered questions. Remember, you’re just getting information, so there’s no need to feel weird about bringing papers and tons of questions. That’s what you’re both there for.
If it has been a while since you set up the meeting, it’s also a good idea to reach out and confirm that the meeting. If they do have to postpone, don’t be discouraged. Just keep being persistent and it will eventually work out.
During the Interview…
There’s not much to worry about! Let the conversation flow and try to make it through all of the questions you prepared—feel free to take notes, as it might be difficult to remember all of the wisdom once you leave.
It’s always a good idea to exchange business cards (or basic info if you don’t have a business card) with the person before you leave. Then you can establish him/her as part of your network, if they’re not a part of it already.
After the Interview…
Always always always follow up immediately with a “thank you” email–or even a mailed, handwritten note! There’s no such thing as sending a “thank you” too soon. Be sure to mention a couple pieces of information that he/she shared with you and express your appreciate for them. These gestures are rare nowadays and will help him/her to remember you if you feel the need to reach out to them again in the future!
Now that you are ready to integrate the informational interview into your job search strategy… what are you waiting for?
For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Levo League!
About the Author: Jessie Garber is a senior English & political science double major at Illinois State University. She co-founded and runs a news hub for 20-somethings, The Millenico Agenda and is a contributor at Thought Catalog. Jessie is a Chicago native, a former DC intern and is currently interning for a congressional campaign. In her spare time she enjoys binge re-watching episodes of Parks and Recreation and Saturday Night Live, and it can’t go without mentioning that Amy Poehler is her all-time hero!