A job seeker asked us about how to set up informational interviews:
“I’m often told ‘informational interviews’ are a great way to get your foot in the door or find out more about a potential career. But how do you even start setting them up? Is there a certain etiquette to follow? Do I just find random people on LinkedIn whose jobs sound cool!?”
We asked recruitment consultant Georgia Harper to weigh in on this one as she is a big champion of informational interviews and has used them in her own career:
Those are great questions. Yes, informational interviews and meetings are great ways to gather information about industries and companies and a great way to add to your network. But there is a pretty strict code of conduct here, so let’s go through the best way to approach this kind of meeting!
1. GETTING THE MEETING
Getting a meeting can be tough. Blindly approaching people with cool jobs on LinkedIn probably isn’t your best bet, but here are a few ways you can get in the door:
a) Who is in your network? Take a close look at the people you are immediately connected to. That person in your gym class might actually be well connected in an area you are interested in. Your old high school friend might have insight into career changes. Take a look at your close circle of acquaintances with a fresh perspective.
b) Who is connected to your network? People “broker” introductions for each other all the time! Are you one connection away from someone who is really interesting to you? See if your close contact might be willing to introduce you! Warning: don’t overstay your welcome here. If you have one friend who is really well connected, pick one or two introductions they could make, don’t bombard that person with a million requests!
Once you have identified that connection it’s time to ask for a meeting. Reach out and invite them for a quick coffee and be mindful of their schedule.
2. PREPARING FOR THE MEETING
You are the host of this meeting, so it’s crucial that you are well prepared. First, have an objective. Why do you want to chat with this person? What are you hoping to learn from this meeting? Second, do your research. Know the person, the company, and anything else you can dig up. If you are meeting with someone from a public company and their stock has just taken a 50% hit, best you are armed with that information!
A quick aside, someone once asked for a meeting with me, which I very happily obliged. Five minutes into our chat I realized that he didn’t know anything about me and hadn’t prepared a single talking point. Not knowing what to topics to cover, I asked him what he was hoping to get out of the meeting. He said he was hoping I could get him a job in my company, which brings me to-
3. DON’T ASK FOR A JOB!
It’s an informational interview, so what you should be after is information. If you conclude with, “so, would you have a spot for me?” you’ll negate everything you’ve earned in the process so far. Countless meetings have been ruined by this. However, if 6 months down the road you see a posting for a role that seems to be a good fit for you, reaching out to this contact to say “hey, I see you guys are looking for someone and I really think I could be a good fit. Is there someone I should send my resume to?” is a great move.
4. FOLLOW UP
Always send a follow up to say thank you and show your appreciation. A handwritten note is a nice touch but a sincere email is fine as well; and make sure to connect on LinkedIn if you haven’t already. Don’t forget to thank the person who connected you, too!
A note on etiquette:
It’s a minor detail but always pay for the coffees. You asked for the meeting, so you pay for it.
ABOUT GEORGIA HARPER
As a specialized recruiter in the office personnel and human resources space, Georgia is truly committed finding the best candidates for the clients she works with. A strong relationship builder, Georgia is dedicated to earning the trust of those she works with by being reliable, honest, and hardworking.