Informational interviews are extremely valuable both as a research tool and as a networking technique. Informational interviewing is not an opportunity to ask for a job, but it is a chance to make a strong first impression that may lead to future contacts and opportunities.
It is an opportunity for a candidate to learn more about a company, function and career paths within a particular organization. It is also an opportunity for a candidate to build advocates within an organization or industry. To get the most out of an informational interview, it is helpful to prepare ahead of time. The following steps will assist candidates as they set-up and conduct informational interviews. In addition, below is a sample list of questions that can be asked during an informational interview.
Step 1: Setting up the Meeting
Informational interviews may be conducted in person or over the phone. In setting up the meeting, both email and phone are appropriate. The initial outreach should be concise and professional, briefly introducing yourself and why you are reaching out.
Below is an example of an appropriate outreach example:
Dear Mrs. Pittman,
I am a second year student at the Alcorn State University interested in transitioning to a Underwater Basket Management role with a major CPG. I found your profile on LinkedIn, and notice that you have had great success in the underwater basket sector. I would be grateful for the opportunity to speak with you about your experiences at Alcorn State University and your career path post-MBA. Do you have 15 – 20 minutes to speak over the next week or two? If so, please let me know what works best for your schedule. I look forward to connecting with you.
Best, Ms. Graham
When the person is not returning e-mails This does NOT mean that the contact isn’t interested in helping you. Typically, it is safe to assume the person is busy and you are not their top priority. You should assume the contact is interested until they tell you they are not. Don’t leave the responsibility for follow-up with the person you’re trying to reach – that responsibility belongs solely to you. Since you are the one seeking information and assistance, it’s up to you to make the connection happen. In your e-mail, provide your contact information in case they would like to reach out to you, but also let them know when you will be contacting them again next.
Step 2: Conducting the Meeting
Start by introducing yourself and talk a bit about your background It is important to keep in mind that for the most part you will run this meeting, so start by explaining who you are, who referred you (or how you obtained their contact information), and why you have requested the meeting. This is an opportunity for you to present your story.
Ask engaging and insightful questions Your goal is to learn more about the industry, the company, and career paths within the organization. Keep your questions professional, but this is an opportune forum to ask about daily responsibilities, work-life balance, and new trends that may exist in the industry.
It is OK to show them your resume It is appropriate to explain that you have put together a resume and would appreciate his/her feedback as an expert. You don't have to act on every piece of feedback, as you will receive plenty of it. It is not appropriate to ask a contact to pass along your resume. Remember, you are asking for information, not a job. If they offer to refer you or ask you to send them your resume, you may do so at that time.
Step 3: Closing the Meeting
At the end of the meeting, ask for recommendations as to next steps as you further your exploration in the field and contacts he/she recommend you speak with. Be sure to thank the individual for his/her time. For example, “Thank you for your time today. I’d love to stay in touch, what’s the best way to stay connected and update you on my search process?”
Step 4: Follow up after the meeting
It is IMPERATIVE that you send a thank you note within 24 hours after every meeting, coffee chat, phone call, etc. Make the note personal and professional, and include any details from your discussion.
Below is an example of a thank you note:
Dear Ms. Pittman,
Thank you for taking the time to speak with me this morning about your experience working as an underwater basket weaver at Alcorn State University. My interest in the company has grown after our conversation about the highly innovative ways in which your team is overcoming the challenges of increasing raw material costs. I am confident that my experience as an basket weaver in training, as well as my success in increasing profits through better inventory management, has prepared me well to intern in this field over the summer. I have taken your advice and both applied online and reached out to your department lead, Ms. Hart. I will follow up with you over the next two weeks to update you on the process and let you know how my conversation went with her. I look forward to the next steps in the application process and hope to hear from you in the near future.
Sincerely, Ms. Graham