I’ve had many informational interviews and I cannot rave about how great they are! I’m surprised that not as many people I know have had these with other individuals. They’re such a great way for you to learn about a different industry or profession. If you’re feeling a little lost in your career or are thinking about making a switch, it’s a good idea to go to someone who’s in a position you’re interested in or who works in an industry you’re interested in so you can ask them questions and get some insight. I think they’re really helpful and they’ve helped reaffirm some of my interests and confirmed some of my concerns. It can seem a little stressful wondering where to start, so I’m breaking it down how you can land an informational interview.
Before you get started, here are some things you should prep with:
Learn in advance about the industry, the company and the individual. Typically informational interviews are pretty short, and are often only 15-30 minutes. You’ll want to do research in advance so that way you’re prepared with some background information and can ask questions you can’t get answers to online.
The people you should target would be in an aspirational role, but aren’t too high up that they won’t have the time to speak with you. Another way to target individuals is by looking for people you have some sort of connection with. You can look for people on LinkedIn who have common connections or who went to your college or are a part of a LinkedIn group that you’re involved in.
Create a list of companies, job titles and positions you’d be interested in. People who fit within any of these categories are good candidates. Those who work for your dream company or have your dream role will be the most beneficial to speak with.
Once you’ve got a list of solid leads of individuals you want to reach out to, you need to put together a “pitch” that will get you in the door for that informational interview.
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You’ll need to think through how you’ll pitch yourself to the people you’d like to speak with. Keeping your outreach short and to the point is best practice.
Start your email off by letting the individual know you’d appreciate their help. People are usually happy to help others out. So it’s important to be straightforward and honest about your request. Being genuine increases people’s desire to help.
Clearly explain why you want to talk to this person and what you’re looking to learn. You could say “I’d love to meet with you for 15-30 minutes to learn about your career trajectory and your industry. If you’re willing, I would love to take you for a quick coffee and I’m happy to meet wherever is most convenient for you.”
You’re specifically asking someone to take time to help you. Show your appreciation and understanding by saying, “I understand you must have a very busy schedule, so speaking for even 15-20 minutes I would greatly appreciate.” Make sure you respect that window of time.
Your email should only be about a paragraph. Keep it short and to the point. This will increase your chances of your email getting read and responded to.
Ensure your subject line is direct and straight to the point. This will help catch the recipients eye. “Would love to connect”, “Admire your work – would like to connect”, etc. are to the point.
These are all pretty basic, but I thought it was important to call out. Use a professional email. Leave a sincere and professional closing with your full name. Make sure you use proper grammar and spelling. Have someone proofread before sending out if need be.
It may take some time before you receive a response. Life gets hectic, so it’s perfectly fine to send a couple follow up notes. Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket, make sure you’re reaching out to multiple people. It may take reaching out to a few people before you land one informational interview.
My general rule of thumb is to give people at least a week to respond. If you don’t hear back within a week, you can shoot them another email and confirm whether they’d be interested in meeting for 15-30 minutes and briefly reiterate what you’d like to speak about. If after a couple of tries you hear nothing, you could wait awhile and attempt another outreach to this person. People get busy, emails get over looked….in your gut you’ll know when you need to move on to the next prospect. Some of the people you pursue might see your persistence as an asset. So let your gut be your guide.
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Have you ever had an informational interview? If so, do you have any advice for how you landed your interview?