Informational interviews are a significant networking activity for career advancement, whether you are actively looking for a job or wish to learn more. Particularly in our small but growing social impact sector, where connections and relationships are crucial.
Although the best type of networking involves developing a mutually beneficial relationship, informational interviews, to be honest, are usually more for your benefit.
That being said, most people enjoy helping others, and the satisfaction of doing so motivates others to meet with you.
When looking for a new job, it may be beneficial to learn more about companies than is readily available through internet searches.
You can look for career advice, facts about an industry, or specifics about a company’s culture and hiring practices.
Collecting information during a job search can help you make a more informed decision about your career path.
In this article, we will learn how to approach a company representative and request an informational interview.
What is precisely an informational interview?
An informational interview is a casual conversation with someone who works in your interested field.
It differs from a formal job interview in that the questions asked to learn more about the industry or a specific company.
You can think of it as part of the research phase of job-hunting rather than a way to apply for open positions.
Setting up an interview may entail using a professional networking website, contacting a contact in your professional network to help you connect with a specific person at a company, or searching for a name in a company directory and contacting the person directly.
How do you know who to approach?
1. Begin with your closest friends and family.
Begin by contacting your friends, family members, and advocates.
Inquire with them if they know anyone in your desired field or a related one.
Inquire about introductions to potential candidates. If you’re nervous about the prospect, you could ask one of your trusted friends to be your first informational interview partner.
Even if he or she is in a completely different field, you can practice asking questions and introducing yourself to a generous interviewer.
2. Broaden your scope.
Next, create a list of everyone in your network (if you’re on LinkedIn, this is a simple click away).
Former coworkers, friends of friends, alumni contacts, recruiters, and acquaintances should all be covered.
Take note of anyone who may have valuable information to share.
You should contact some of these people and request informational interviews.
Others may be able to connect you with someone in their network.
Consider attending industry events where you might meet interesting people. Mix and mingle while gathering business cards.
It is not necessary to stalk. Have a good conversation and then follow up with a polite request to meet.
The Perks of Informal Interviews
The informational interview, guided by your questions, communicates the firsthand experiences and impressions of someone in the occupation.
Less Stressful than traditional
An informational interview is less stressful than a traditional job interview for both you and the employer. You have the upper hand. You can talk about what happens daily and how it relates to your interests and feelings.
Aside from the benefits of gaining valuable career information, the informational interview allows you to boost your self-confidence and improve your ability to handle a job interview.
Who you know is a crucial part of a successful job search.
Your contacts may be aware of jobs that have not yet been posted or can make valuable introductions.
You are broadening your network by conducting this informational interview.
How to request an informational job interview?
Once you’ve decided who you want to ask for assistance, here are some pointers to help you request an informational job interview via email:
- Before you send an email, make sure you’re ready.
- Use a well-thought-out subject line.
- Be succinct.
- Please provide a brief description of yourself.
- Describe how you discovered them.
- Recognize their achievements.
- Ask for assistance directly.
- Please be considerate.
1. Be prepared before sending an email.
Plan your questions if your contact person has immediate availability to meet or speak on the phone.
Because you are the one requesting assistance, you should be the most versatile in your scheduling.
2. Use a well-thought-out subject line.
When you don’t know someone personally, the email subject line should introduce your request in a concise and specific manner.
A simple greeting such as “hello” or a generic word such as “information” may be filtered by their email program or appear unimportant enough to open.
You could write your email first and then use the subject line as a summary. Use between 30 and 50 characters for easy reading on any platform.
3. Be succinct
Get to the point of your email as quickly as possible so that your contact is willing to read the entire thing.
Avoid filler content such as “I hope this email finds you well” or “Have a nice day.”
While directly addressing the reasons for your email, you can be courteous, professional, and cheerful.
4. Give a brief description of yourself
You went to college, what you studied, your current or previous jobs, where you live, and any connections you have in common with the contact could all be included in your introduction.
This introduction is intended to help someone get to know you regarding your information request, not necessarily as a job seeker.
A discussion about your job search and career goals is better left for another time.”
5. Recognize their achievements.
It can be beneficial for the recipient of your email to understand why you chose to contact them, mainly if you are contacting them without a networking advantage.
You may have read a publication they wrote that you admired, read an interview, listened to a podcast where they were a guest, knew them by reputation, or heard about an award they received.
If you have a reason to show respect and acknowledgement, it can help the recipient understand that you chose them specifically for their credentials or achievements.
6. Ask for assistance directly
It is acceptable to say, “I hope you can help me” or “I would appreciate your assistance.” Many professionals appreciate being asked to mentor or assist others in their industry who are looking for guidance. Make it clear what kind of assistance you require.
“I have a few questions” does not specify how much of their time you require, whereas “I was hoping we could meet for 30 minutes to ask some questions about your experiences in human resources” clearly expresses your request and expectations.
The more specific your questions, the more likely it is to know if they can assist.
7. Be considerate
It is polite to acknowledge that the other person’s time is valuable and that you appreciate their consideration of your request as the person asking the favour.
You can suggest when you are available and how you would like to meet, but show your flexibility by speaking on the phone instead or corresponding via email if that is what they prefer.
Informational interview request example
Consider using the following sample email to help you write your informational interview request:
Subject: I enjoyed your new podcast
Dear Mrs Johson
My name is Emily Clarke. For the past four years, I served as an adviser with our familiar friend David Smith, and he suggested I listen to your podcast on the issues confronting women in leadership roles. I appreciate the information you provided.
I was hoping to meet with you for coffee or lunch to discuss this further. I want to ask you some questions about that, specifically about the best way to approach pursuing promotions. I have some questions. I would love to invite you on that subject; especially, the best way to seek publicity.
Of course, if talking on the phone is more convenient for you, that is also an option for me. If any of those options are suitable for you, I have some free time next Wednesday or Thursday, and most of my days are open the following week.
Thank you for sharing your insights once more, and I look forward to speaking with you.
Bad email etiquette habits you should avoid :
- Avoid using the phrase “hear your thoughts” instead of considering what visual image comes to mind.
- Don’t count on getting a meeting anytime soon.
- Do not cancel at the last minute and request a reschedule.
- Don’t email multiple people in the same office/team to request coffee.
- Unless specifically requested, do not attach your resume.
- Don’t forget to send a follow-up thank you email the next day—bonus points if you send another follow-up email a few months later demonstrating you followed their advice.
- Send a meeting request to ensure it is on the calendar – this demonstrates that you are proactive and organized.
However, there is no perfect email template; if you follow the advice above, you will have a better chance of getting a yes.