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Informational interviews are a great resource whether you're changing roles, choosing a major, or moving into a new industry. They can also expand your network and provide firsthand insights into your career options.
But a rambling interview request sent out of the blue can backfire. So how can you schedule informational interviews professionally?
What is an informational interview?
An informational interview helps you learn more about a position or role. You're not interviewing for a role — instead, you're doing the interviewing. An informational interview gives insights into the duties and requirements for a career path.
Rather than interviewing with a hiring manager, you'll speak directly with a professional. They'll share their perspective on their job.
Why set up an informational interview?
During an informational interview, you'll connect with an experienced professional. And informational interviews offer several benefits beyond networking.
Here's what you might get out of an informational interview.
Learn about the daily responsibilities of a specific role.
Learn more about a specific company and its company culture.
Expand your network and learn about unlisted job opportunities.
Practice asking questions in an informal interview environment.
Learn whether your experience and skills match a particular role.
Gain insider info from someone experienced in the role.
Step by step: How to set up an informational interview
So, you want to set up an informational interview. But how do you get started? Our walkthrough will help you schedule interviews without seeming pushy.
1. Decide that you're not going to let fear get in your way.
Reaching out to a stranger to set up an interview can be awkward. Your instincts might warn you to avoid contacting people at all. But don't let fear stop you.
Reach out to your current network for connections so you can build a foundation for an informational interview. And allow yourself to make mistakes. Instead of worrying over the "perfect message," just be confident and polite.
2. Decide who you'd like to speak with.
An informational interview is all about getting information. So think carefully about who you'd like to interview. Which people will help you reach your professional goals?
Then reach out to friends and family to see whether they can put you in touch with someone in a target role. You can also lean on your alumni network, LinkedIn connections, or professional networking sites.
Tools like LinkedIn allow you to filter employees at a company who went to your school.
3. Reach out.
Reaching out is often the most intimidating step in setting up an informational interview. So focus on a short, clear ask.
Use email or LinkedIn to send a brief message. Be specific about your request and personalize your reach-out. Mention why you're reaching out to them specifically. If you went to the same college or you recently read one of their blog posts, mention it briefly.
Use a genuine, warm, and professional tone. Don't be stuffy or robotic.
And be specific. Ask if they're open to a short informational interview and propose meeting options, such as a phone call, in-person coffee, or emailing questions.
Respect their time and don't waste it. And avoid coming across as desperate for a job.
4. If you don't hear back, follow up.
You might not hear back after your first request. Wait at least three days to follow up. Ideally, give them a week to respond. Remember, you're asking them for a favor, so do not act entitled to their time.
Send a brief, polite follow-up. If you don't hear back after one follow-up, move on. You can always reach out to people in similar roles or at the same company.
If you do hear back, prepare before your meeting. Make sure you come across as well-informed. Your new contact could be a reference down the line. So do your research.
Look into their professional and educational background to find commonalities you can bring up during the informational interview.
Before your meeting, prepare a list of questions. Ask how they got into their current role and what responsibilities they take on daily and long-term. Allow for spontaneity in the interview, but make sure you hit your main points.
6. Conduct your informational interview.
Start your informational interview by showing gratitude for their time and expertise. Be friendly and defer to their experience. And make sure to show respectful interest during the conversation. Focus on being a good listener and asking follow-up questions.
Avoid fawning over them, but express your appreciation for their insights. And ask for permission before taking notes or recording the conversation.
Be aware of their time. Make sure the interview does not run long.
After an informational interview, send a quick thank-you email and mention specific takeaways from your conversation.