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Get the Most Out of Informational Interviews with These 4 Tips

Published January 18, 2019

Get the Most Out of Informational Interviews with These 4 Tips

Are you about to graduate but not sure what exactly you want to do? Are you already working but thinking about pivoting to something new? Looking to build your network? No matter what your goal, informational interviews can help you achieve it.

Unlike a traditional job interview, informational interviews are informal meetings between you and someone working in a field or at a company where you might want to work. It’s a great way to explore your career options in order to determine where you might best fit.

Here are four things to keep in mind when seeking out informational interviews:

1. Choosing the right person.
Start by tapping into your own network. Who are you connected with on LinkedIn, and who are they connected with? Look for people who work for companies you admire or who hold positions that sound interesting to you. You want to try to meet with people who have diverse perspectives and who are at different levels of seniority in order to get a more complete view of the field.

2. Timing is everything.
Generally speaking, you can request an informational interview at any time, but try to avoid asking for one when you’re looking for a job. These meetings are meant to be exploratory rather than for a specific position, that way there’s less pressure on you and the person with whom you're speaking.

3. Making the connection.
Ideally, you want to make connections in person first, such as introducing yourself at an event. Another great way to connect is through someone you both know. This makes it more likely the person will give you 30 minutes of their time. When reaching out to someone you have no direct connections with, start by researching them, their company, and their current role. When you email someone: make sure to use the correct name and title; include one or two sentences about yourself; and be specific about why you want to talk. Here's an example: “I saw the recent news about your company's new focus on bioengineering. I would love to hear more about this and the role you've been playing in this change. Can we meet for coffee sometime soon?”

4. Come prepared.
Be sure to go to interviews with a list of specific questions. Asking someone to tell you about their career path won’t cut it—you can find that by looking at their LinkedIn profile. You want to show the person that you have some familiarity with what they and their company do, so you can get a better understanding of the particulars. At the end of your conversation, ask if there’s anything you can do for them in return. And always send a thank you note, either via email or snail mail (or both), within a week.

Want to learn more about conducting informational interviews? Sign up for our February 5th webinar “Using Informational Interviews to Find Your Dream Job,” featuring Dr. Rebecca Nebel from the Society for Women’s Health Research.