Informational interviews can provide you with useful details about a particular company or position. During an informational interview, you have many opportunities to ask questions to see if you would be interested in working in a specific industry. Learn more about what an informational interview is and how to ask for one.
What is an informational interview?
An informational interview is a meeting with a professional who could provide useful insights into your career and consider you for future openings at their company. You can typically ask for an informational interview with a manager or supervisor at a company you’re interested in working for.
There are several differences between an informational interview and a job interview. During an informational interview, you ask the professional about what it’s like working for the company, what a typical day looks like and any other questions you would like to know about the industry. During a job interview, a hiring manager asks you about your qualifications and abilities.
Informational interviews are usually more casual and can take place in different settings. You can meet the person you want to interview at their workplace, or you could meet off-site for coffee or lunch. Politeness and respect can really go a long way when you’re trying to ask a professional contact for a meeting.
How to ask for an informational interview
Here’s how to ask for an informational interview:
1. First, make a list of the companies where you’d like to work
The first step involves brainstorming companies you would be interested in joining. You can do your research on the internet, attend industry events or gather information from colleagues, friends and family. When you’ve compiled a list of companies, consider which position could be a good fit for you.
In some cases, you may not find positions that are a perfect fit for you. If you’re still interested in working for the company, it can still be useful to meet with someone to see if they have other positions that you could grow into.
2. Second, identify people who could be a good fit for the interview
Find out who manages the position you’d be interested in at those companies. To do this, you can browse the company’s website or social media handles. Once you’ve identified those people, look for their email address. You could find it on their company’s website, usually in the “Contacts” page. Otherwise, you can call the company and ask the person’s contact information.
3. Third, ask your professional network for a referral
Asking people for a meeting can be much easier if you have a mutual acquaintance. You can ask your former colleagues or manager if they know the person you’d like to interview. A referral from people in your professional network can boost your chances to get a positive response.
4. Fourth, personalize your proposal
When writing your informational interview request email, try to be as personal as possible. Explain why you are reaching out specifically to this person based on the research you did about them.
For example, you can say that you admire how quickly their career progressed, or mention one of their recent achievements. Instead of copying and pasting the same proposal email you already sent to other people, take the time to craft a personalized message.
5. Fifth, show respect for their time
People who have enough knowledge and responsibility to help with your career can be busy. Make sure to mention in your email that you know how busy they are.
For example, you can tell them that you only need 10 or 15 minutes to discuss career opportunities together. Always remember to show appreciation for the time this person decides to spend helping you.
6. Sixth, offer different meeting options
There is a possibility that the person you want to interview isn’t available to meet you in person, but they would gladly have a quick chat with you over the phone. It’s always best to include those meeting options in your proposal email, so the person won’t feel pressured if they can’t schedule a face-to-face interview with you.
Remember to include your contact information in the email, such as your phone number. This way, the recipient can reach you as soon as they have some spare time to talk.
7. Seventh, carefully proofread your email
When asking for an informational interview, you don’t necessarily need to be formal. However, you still want your email or message to sound as professional as possible.
To achieve this goal, the first step is checking for spelling and grammar errors in your text. Take your time to proofread your message and use spellchecking tools to ensure you didn’t overlook anything. Try reading your message aloud to hear how it flows.
8. Next, brainstorm questions to ask during the interview
To maximize your time, prepare your questions in advance. This could also show that you have organizational skills. Take inspiration from the research you did and formulate personalized questions.
For example, you could ask which past work experiences helped them with their career. Also, you can ask the person if they know someone else that could give you some insights about the career of your choice.
9. Last, follow up
If the person you chose for your informational interview doesn’t reply to your email in a couple of weeks, it’s probably time to follow up. You can write another email asking if they had the chance to read your interview request. In the follow-up message, you should reiterate that you respect the person’s time and that you admire their recent career achievements.
However, if your second email remains unanswered, consider finding someone else. If the person accepts your invitation, remember to send them a thank-you email after the interview.