Seven Tips on Setting up an Informational Interview
Updated: Aug 18, 2021
When you reach out to someone to conduct an informational interview there are some important things to consider before making contact. Being prepared for the conversation that may ensue will help you to avoid unnecessary pitfalls and will increase your success.
When you reach out to someone to set up an informational interview it is important for you to know that many people are not familiar with this language (i.e. informational interview). Instead they will believe that you are asking them for a job or for an interview. It is up to you to educate them and clarify what the intent of the request is. That is, that you are requesting a meeting so that you can ask them questions to better understand the industry they work in. Through the years I have found that most people like to talk about themselves and share their story and wisdom with others. Setting up an informational interview is less onerous if you clarify that your intent is simply to learn from them.
You have requested the meeting - so you should pay. Enough said.
It is crucial that you do not monopolize too much of the interviewees time when conducting an informational interview. I would suggest keeping the meeting to 15-20 minutes. This should be clarified with the interviewee when making the initial request. This way the person won’t be under the impression that you are asking for a couple hours of their time. During the interview, if the conversation is going well, it is a good idea to acknowledge when your time is coming to an end. Do not assume that that they are fine to continue - be respectful of the time they have agreed to. This would sound something like this:
“I noticed that our 20 minutes is coming to an end and I would love to continue talking but wanted to be respectful of your time. Are you okay to carry on?”
Conducting informational interviews is networking. For this reason, it is always best to set up a face-to face meeting so that you are able to make an impression on the person. It is hard to make an impression over the phone or via email, however, sometimes it is clear that your subject does not have the time for a face-to-face meeting and in this case just take what you can get.
Don’t be afraid to share some of your background experience and expertise with the interviewee during your conversation. This is how the interviewee will get to know you. When they walk away from your meeting, they should have some sense of who you are. Now make sure you don’t come across like you are making a hard sell. This information should be lightly ’peppered’ into the conversation and shouldn’t be the focus of the conversation. It can be a good idea to bring this up when asking questions about your suitability for the industry.
Conduct lots of informational interviews – not just one or two. You should be conducting MANY informational interviews to not only build your network but to compile industry opinions, tips and tricks so that you have a compilation of data to help you make your next career decision.
Please remember that YOU ARE NOT ASKING FOR A JOB. You are collecting information, building a network, expanding your industry knowledge. If you ask for a job in your 20-minute meeting you have FAILED!