How (and why) to get informational interviews

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Tip: There’s a template you can use to request an informational interview at the bottom of this post.

The informational interview explained.
Unlike a job interview, an informational interview is an informal meeting you arrange with a professional to learn more about a company, role or career path. Usually, this person works in a position or at a company you’re targeting.

What’s in it for you.

  • Develop contacts in your industry (current or aspiring)
  • Get a referral for a role you want
  • Stay up to date on specific career field trends
  • Get career advice from an industry professional
  • Find/apply to opportunities that aren’t posted on job boards

Decide who to contact.
Search LinkedIn for people who either work at your dream company or have a job title you want. Don’t worry about what city they’re in—if they’re local, you should try to schedule a meeting in-person (over coffee). If not, a phone call works too.

Narrow it down to a few potential interviewees. Target professionals who realistically have more time to talk to you (so probably not the CEO of a major company).

Make the ask.
Getting strangers to respond to your email or LinkedIn message isn’t easy. Here’s how to convince busy professionals to take time out of their day for you.

1. Say why you’re contacting them.
Tailor your message and include the specific reasons you’re asking this person. Mention how you admire the work they’ve done with a certain technology or talk about how you’re impressed by their career path.

2. Convey that you’re looking for info, not a job.
Make it clear you’re seeking this person’s advice/expertise and conducting research about the industry, company or career path. If they think you just want a referral, they’ll probably ignore your message or send you to their company’s career page. Wait until you’ve established a relationship to ask for help getting your foot in the door.

3. Be specific about your overall goals (and include next steps).
Don’t be vague. Describe exactly what you want out of the interview and actionable ways to move forward.

Instead of “I’d love to learn more about what you do,” say “I’d love to have 15-20 minutes of your time to meet up over coffee and talk about what it’s like working as an AR engineer. If you’re up for it, let me know what times are most convenient for you.”

4. Bonus: Bring up something you have in common.
If you have anything in common with this person, include it—it helps establish a relationship. Consider mentioning one of the following topics:

  • Education – are you both alumni of the same university?
  • Background – do you share a similar career path or skill set?
  • Location – are you both from the same city?
  • Mutual contacts – do you know the same people (either on LinkedIn or IRL)?

Sample outreach message:

Hi [Name],
My name’s [Your Name] and I’m [a recent grad/looking to switch careers/looking for a new opportunity].

I found your profile on LinkedIn and [include what you admire about the person, plus why you decided to contact them].

[Add anything you have in common here].

If you have 15-20 minutes to chat, I’d love to meet with you [over coffee/over the phone] and talk about [what you’re interested in learning about]. Please let me know what times are best for you.

Look forward to hearing from you!

Thank you,
[Your name]

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