You may have heard about informational interviews before; that they’re 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 you just find random people on LinkedIn whose jobs sound interesting?
Our Director of Recruitment, Georgia Harper, weighs in on this one, as she is a big champion of informational interviews and has used them in her own career:
Georgia says that 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 she also cautions that there is a bit of a code of conduct here, so let’s go through the best way to approach this kind of meeting!
Note: In light of COVID-19 and social distancing requirements, informational interviews are definitely still possible, just arrange for them as a video chat rather than in person!
Here are Georgia’s tips for successful informational interviews:
1. Getting the meeting
Getting a meeting can be tough. Blindly approaching people with interesting jobs on LinkedIn probably isn’t your best bet, but here are a few ways you can get in the door:
- 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.
- 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 the 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 six 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 your company is 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 completely fine; 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
An expert at recruiting for accounting and finance professionals, Georgia is truly committed to finding the best candidates for the clients she works with. A strong relationship builder, she is dedicated to earning the trust of those she works with by being reliable, honest and hardworking. Read more »