The term “informational interview” will become quite common once you enter the search for a big girl job. To be totally transparent with you I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when going into one of these “informational interviews”. My main issue being; why would someone high up in my desired industry want to take the time to get coffee and talk to little old me if they aren’t hiring?
Well here’s the thing, if you are a good person and have people who genuinely care about you chances are they are on your team and want you to succeed. These people will connect you with individuals who have pull in the field you are looking to work in. Thus putting their face on the line to help you out, aka don’t look like an idiot when it comes time to meet the connection make the best possible impression you can.
It’s important to remember who ever you end up meeting with was once in your shoes. They understand that the struggle is so real and if you have a good head on your shoulders and show genuine desire to get your feet on the ground somewhere they will want to help you out the best they can.
Informational interviews are great opportunities to network and practice speaking to experienced professionals in your field. You’ll be surprised at how many people are willing to meet and talk with you once you start to reach out. So if someone goes out of their way to set you up with a person of influence in your field (even if you already have a job) don’t skip the opportunity. Take sometime out of your schedule to talk to this person.
This is different from an actual job interview, and you should approach it as such. I’m not saying come in sweats and un-prepared, but be ready to have an organic conversation. This is not sorority recruitment where you need to banter off everything you were ever involved in, it’s a person taking the time out of their day to try and help you on your journey.
The fact that these types of conversations are different from a formal job interview, doesn’t mean that there isn’t appropriate etiquette, here are some tips to get you started:
- When reaching out don’t be shy, say who connected you and reach out more than once if you have to. Attach your resume and give the person a brief description of who you are, who you understand them to be and why you want to talk to them.
- Be professional, be on time, look nice, do your research.
- Come ready for formal interview style questions, this isn’t always the case, completely depends on who you talk with, but much better to be over prepared than underprepared.
- Tell them your story, but keep if brief, this person is meeting with you on his/ her own time so don’t bore them with the things no one cares about.
- Ask meaningful questions, determine the top three or four things you want to know about a company.
- Know the industry. This goes back to do your research, if you are looking in to marketing agencies in Chicago, know the marketing agencies and Chicago… Chances are if the person you talk with likes you they can connect you with others it’s a domino effect that works in your favor.
- Be tactful, it’s pretty much considered rude to ask for a job at an informational interview. Feel out the situation, if things are going really well and this is a company you could see yourself working for ask what the hiring process is. But be VERY careful if this person thinks you would make a good fit there, they will likely connect you with the right people.
- Always send a follow up thank you email. Time is valuable, and connections are always good to have, you never know what could come out of these little chats and sending a thank you note will only benefit you.