How To Ask For an Informational Interview

How to land an Informational InterviewWe all like to be appreciated for what we do well. When someone asks me a question about resumes or other career topics, I’m always happy to answer, or at least refer the person to where they can get the answer. I like to think this is because I’m a giving, altruistic person. But, in all honesty, there’s ego involved, too. Knowing someone appreciates my expertise makes me want to talk. (My friends will confirm this.)

That is why I recommend people conduct informational interviews. If you ask someone to offer their advice, showing respect for their success, they will likely want to share. Is it only that we like to pay it forward? Sometimes, but I’m not unique; people like to hear themselves talk about the things they know. Either way, having a specific agenda with pointed questions will get you further in your networking efforts than the vague request of asking your connection out to coffee.

So, how do you set up an informational interview? It can be hard to ask for a favor. Many job seekers procrastinate on setting up informational interviews or networking meetings because they are afraid of being rejected. If you follow these guidelines, you’ll be much more likely to get a positive response.

  1. Consider the mode of communication

    People often have different ways they prefer to be contacted. Some people are phone people; others are more likely to respond via email. Judge which mode of communication your contact might prefer, but try another if your request goes unanswered. You might try going through a contact’s assistant if she is hard to reach.

  2. Use this template

    However you make contact, your message should contain the following:

    • Give a polite salutation. “Dear so-and-so,” or “Hello what’s-your-name” are safe bets.

    • Tell your contact where you know her from, or if you have a mutual connection.

    • Inform him of your objective: to meet, talk via phone, or simply exchange emails.

    • Be clear that you want a brief meeting to discuss a specific set of questions, and that you are not inquiring about a job or seeking feedback on your resume.

    • Provide a hint of what the questions are about, i.e. you’d like to know more about the inner-workings of XYZ Company, you’re interested in joining ABC association and would like to know about her experience, etc.

    • Provide two or three options for your meeting so that it is easy for him to check his calendar and schedule the appointment in his return email.

    Here’s an example you can modify for your own use:

    A good friend of mine, Joe Blow, M.D., suggested that I contact you. I recently told him that I have always been intrigued by the work that you do. I have researched your company extensively and am very impressed with the comprehensive approach you take with patient safety and satisfaction.

    As someone who is considering a transition from my work in research into to your field, I’d love to talk with you about courses I’m thinking of taking to make me a more desirable candidate. Your insights would be extremely helpful as I plan my future career path. Just to be clear, I’m not looking to ask you to hire me, or to have you look at my resume, but just to learn from your expertise.

    Would it be possible to meet with you for 15 minutes to gain further insights into the industry, as well as career path advice you might have?

    Thank you for considering it,

    Mary Jane

  3. Follow up

Give the person a few days or even a week to respond. If you don’t hear back right away, don’t be surprised. You may need to reach out again, or try a different mode of communication. I recommend avoiding Mondays and Fridays for these attempts, as they tend to be the busiest work days and messages from these days can easily fall through the cracks.

Also, don’t focus solely on one or two connections. You want a list to work through so that you aren’t being too persistent with one person. If you feel like it’s time to move on, trust your gut.

Be sure to opt-in to my blog, so that you don’t miss more valuable tips for during your informational interview. I’ll be covering questions you will want to ask soon.

Do you have a success story about how an informational interview led to landing a job? I’d love to hear them in the comments below!

Kristin S. Johnson
CARW, CCMC, CJSS, COPNS, CG3C, 360Reach Analyst
Profession Direction, LLC
www.ProfessionDirection.com

19 Responses to “How To Ask For an Informational Interview”

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  1. Holly Reslink says:

    Excellent article!

  2. David Monteiro Reis says:

    Hello, dear Kristin!

    I’m Brazilian and was looking for great advice/articles about how to have a good performance in interviews, and work-related things in general, and luckily, I found your website!! I confess that I’m loving it! Your advice and suggestions will undoubtedly help me a lot! (They’re already helping me expand my visions, for sure!) May God bless you for sharing your knowledge with us!

    Cordially,

    David Monteiro Reis
    Morro do Chapéu – Bahia – Brazil

  3. Good article Kristin. Thanks for sharing.

    I’ve found that when I want to have an introduction meeting or an informational interview with someone I don’t personally know, getting a mutually respected contact to make the introduction and ask for a time to meet works well. The target contact is less likely to say no, or not respond, and the initial conversations are much easier for both parties. If possible, invite the mutual connection to join the discussion. This amplifies the opportunity to truly connect, learn, and share ideas.

    Thanks for the article!
    Teddy

  4. Gerard Donahue says:

    Thanks for the article Kristin.

    I found it very informative and useful. I will use some of the tips since I may be relocating to Wisconsin no later than August 2013 due to my wife’s work consolidating offices.

    Gerard

  5. Excellent review for me, Kristin! I have used informational interviews on a regular basis (and will continue to use them). Along with tools currently available online like LInkedIn, I find informational interviews are crucial to understanding and clarifying positions wrt employment. They are great for visibility both when you have a job and when you don’t.

    Emily Smith, MA, PMP
    http://about.me/emsmithpmp

  6. Joe Leterle says:

    Great article!

    This is exactly the type of info I needed to jump start my job search.

  7. maria says:

    Kristin,

    Thank you for your article, I also have found it really interesting, I just started looking for a job and this has given me light on where to move from where I am right now. Life in general is about networking. I have a question in terms of what would be the next step after the informational interviewing, because we are making clear we are not looking to be hired! SO in case we like the info obtained, how do we move to the next step. Thank you Maria

  8. Lisa A. Morris says:

    Thank goodness for Google and this article. I was sitting at my computer struggling for he right words to ask a stranger who sent me a linkedin invite for an phone call so that I could pick her brain regarding making a transition from my current field into hers. Just hit send on the email thanks to your help.

  9. Thanks for writing about info interviews Kristin. It’s mind boggling how effective they can be and how little they’re taken seriously.

    I’ve heard of great success with Teddy’s advice. Through a mutual connection, a young lady was able to connect with a VP of marketing for a large bank for an interview. She asked him for one referral. He introduced her to an ad agency owner who in turn introduced her to another higher level exec and info interviews from there went on for quite a few months with high level interviewees. So time invested starting off with the right person will pay off in the end.

    Also the importance of practice involved with info interviewing cannot be overstated. When the person doing info interviews finally begins job interviewing, she’ll be more confident and in position to interview those who are interviewing her for the job.

  10. Hello, Kristin

    Superb Article!

    I think a successful informational interview will provide you with insider insight about the industry you’re passionate about. “Information interview is really a best way get up close with the industry and kind of organization where job seeker is looking to get hired.” I am completely agreeing with your three points i.e. the mode of communication, template and follow up. The way you explain with an example is really appreciated. I found your article very useful and impressive. You’ve covered all the points in simple and elegant manner. Thank you so much.

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