Four Tips to Make the Most Out of an Informational Interview

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In our recent blog post, we shared easy ways to refresh your network by documenting your contacts, reviewing your recent engagements with your connections and thinking about your networking goals. Your networking goals should stem from your career goals. What are you hoping to accomplish this year and who in your network can help you achieve it? If you’re looking to change professions or learn more about a different industry, then an informational interview can be a very effective networking tool to accomplish this. 

In our recent blog post, we shared easy ways to refresh your network by documenting your contacts, reviewing your recent engagements with your connections and thinking about your networking goals. Your networking goals should stem from your career goals. What are you hoping to accomplish this year and who in your network can help you achieve it? If you’re looking to change professions or learn more about a different industry, then an informational interview can be a very effective networking tool to accomplish this. Here are four tips to help you make the most out of an informational interview:

1. Do your research

You’re doing this because you’re likely new to the industry or profession and that’s okay. But, make sure you have a basic understanding of the industry trends and lingo before meeting with your connection:

  • Check out your contact’s LinkedIn profile or perform a quick Google search to review his/her educational background and work experience
  • Follow influential industry leaders on Twitter
  • Read industry-related blogs

 

2. Show up with good questions

Use your knowledge from step one to form educated and specific questions. Focus your inquiries on getting to know your contact’s experience, so you can understand what it’s really like to work in his/her field or position. Here are some questions to get you started:

  • What is your typical day/week like?
  • How many hours do you usually work in a week?
  • What’s the most challenging thing about this job/field?
  • What do you like most and least about your work?
  • How would you describe the organizational culture?
  • What skills and qualifications are required to be successful in this field/company/organization?
  • What would be a reasonable salary range to expect if I entered this field? What is the long term potential?

 

3. Don’t leave without other names

A good salesperson never leaves without another lead: ask him/her if there are other people in the company/organization or industry that you should connect with and if he/she would be willing to make an introduction?

 

4. Ace the follow-up

  • Within a day or two, send a hand-written thank you note. Be specific in your note by referencing a piece of advice your contact gave you during your conversation.
  • Within a week, send an email to thank him/her again for meeting with you and to follow up on any next steps discussed during the interview. If you accomplished the third tip, you should take this opportunity to politely ask again for an introduction to his/her contact.
  • Within a month or two, follow up with another note to update him/her on your career progress or send a link to an event or article that may interest him/her.
  • Don’t lose contact with this connection. Find ways to consistently nurture your networksend a thank you note during Thanksgiving or a new year’s card at the start of the year.

Additional resources on networking and informational interviews:

Written by Kim Kawecki: Kim is a Senior Communications Specialist for The Community Builders, Inc. in Boston, MA., and also serves on the YNPN Boston Marketing and Communications team.


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