7 Informational Interview Tips

Proving that this blog is truly destined to have no particular direction, I was thinking recently about informational interviews.  And as you can see from the title, I couldn't make it to a list of 10.

I've been on both sides.  Basic truths, whether we like it or not ...

  • The interviewer is nearly always doing someone a favor.
  • The interviewer usually has no idea what the mystery 30 minutes is on their calendar that day. And it's only at that final moment do they realize the connection to the young person sitting in front of them.
  • The interviewee is nearly always scared to death.  Understandably.
  • The interviewee - no matter what they're told in advance - always thinks there's a shred of chance that they'll get hired, despite no job existing.

Having been around for a few years, here's my advice for the youngsters whose parent and professors have opened the door for an informational interview.  In no particular order.  Sometimes you get one chance - make it count.

  1. No brainer - find the person you're meeting and follow her/him on LinkedIn and Twitter.  Follow.  Do not stalk.  There's a difference.  Trust me.
  2. Come prepared with three smart questions about the industry.
  3. Take notes.  Like with a pen and paper.  Write down quotes.  Key words.  Additional questions.  I'm shocked when people don't take notes in job interviews.  How can you pen a thoughtful and meaningful follow-up without notes?
  4. Speaking of follow-ups, here's one you won't hear often:  wait.  Wait.  Wait.  Wait.  OK, now.  The point is, if you send a follow up note mere hours after the meeting, what does that say about your ability to reflect?  Wait a few days - trust me, no one's watching the clock on this. Take your time.  Be thoughtful.  Review your notes (see #3).
  5. Sit up straight. Like professionals are meant to do.
  6. Don't be afraid to ask for something. But make it very specific.  "I'd be thrilled if you could introduce me to one of your junior staff members.  I would love to bend their ear for 30 minutes so I can further understand how to break into this business."  Or "Is there someone in your industry who you know is hiring that you'd be willing to introduce me to?"
  7. Do your research about the company, but be very careful about offering too strong an opinion about what you've read.  Educated = good.  Opinionated = dangerous territory.  Depends on what stage your career is at.  But generally, newbies should listen

 What am I missing?