The informational interview: Approaching a mentor, decision maker or influencer to ask for one can be scary — perhaps because it can seem too much like:
“Hi! I’m here! Look at me! I’m trying to find out everything I can about anything so I can eventually land a decent job! Hello?”
And yet as I approach the end of my senior year in college, I have a personal goal of one informational interview a week. I’ve competed many already, and I can tell you:
Informational interviews are a great tool for making connections, getting advice, and prepping myself for future interviews.
I’ll be in New York this week for informational interviews – both personal networking, and my business venture for school — and these 5 tips are really going to help me out in the Big Apple!
1. Know Everything There is to Know About the Person You’re Interviewing
And I mean everything. 99% of this information will never actually come out in an interview, but do your homework. For example, I know what company my interviewee works for now — what she does, where her office is. I know where she went to school. I know what companies she worked for in the past, and what she did there.
A more (thorough) stalking of social media and the like tells me she just got married in June, her sister is getting married and she’s helping in the wedding dress search, and she’s obsessed with dogs…among other things.
When you have a bunch of information from Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, their portfolio, etc., make what I like to call a STALKER SHEET, and put all the info in one place. Having all this information will make a stranger feel like a real person, and will give you some general talking points.
2. Buy Their Coffee/Lunch
This one’s simple — they took the time to meet you and are (fingers crossed) going to give you some great advice. A simple way to repay them is by insisting on purchasing their drink or meal.
3. Ask Thoughtful, Not Leading Questions
Make sure you are asking questions that cannot possibly be answered with one word, and make sure they don’t lead to the answer you (or they) expect.
Example: instead of “Do you like your job?”, ask “What is your favorite part about your job?” or “Is your workplace fun?”, ask “What’s the workplace culture like?”
Then dig even deeper.
If you’re interviewing someone from an advertising agency, ask them about their experience in agency life, and how that experience may differ from an in-house approach. Ask your general questions, and then play to their experience and pull the information you need/want.
4. ALWAYS Ask the Key End-of-the-Interview Question
“Who do you respect in your field? Can I ask why? Can you suggest the names of two or three other people I should know? Is it okay to mention that we talked, and their name came up?”
5. Send a Thank You Note/Email
Another simple one, but easy to overlook. An email works great, but a handwritten note says so much more in this world of crazy, impersonal communication.
Be sure to include personal details about what you talked about in the interview — it jogs the memory, and gives a friendly vibe.
I also like to include a sentence like, “I am looking forward to growing a great professional relationship with you!” AND THEN ACTUALLY, DO IT. Keep in touch.
Go get ’em. You’re gonna rock it.
Any other tips you recommend? Have you ever actually HAD an informational interview? I’d love to know! Comment below!
For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Lost Gen Y Girl.
About the Author: Kayla Cruz graduated college at the age of 20 with a degree in Health Services Administration. She is currently working as a Regulatory Coordinator in Clinical Research while pursuing a Master’s Degree in Public Administration specializing in Human Resources. She has found she’s most passionate about helping young professionals navigate through their first few years as GenYers in the workforce. Follow Kayla on Twitter!