Make the most of informational interviews

summer jobThe idea of an informational interview may seem like a waste of time. The person you’re meeting often won’t have a job opportunity for you to apply for, so why meet with them? But informational interviews are actually a great way to gain insight into the industry or the company you’re interested in. Here are some tips to make the most of your informational interviews.

1. Use connections. If you know someone who knows the person you’d like to interview, ask him or her to make an email introduction.

2. It can’t hurt to ask! Don’t be shy about reaching out to ask for an informational interview. This could be someone you already know, or someone you’d like to get to know better. Either way, send a politely worded email that’s brief and to the point. Saying something like “I’m interested in a career in your field, and would love to hear about your experience” is all you need.

3. Think big picture. What do you want to learn from this person? Are you interested in how to break into the field, what the day-to-day work is like for them, or what skills they have that helped them most in their career? Keep this goal in mind and it will help you form the best questions during the interview.

4. Send an email confirmation. It’s helpful to book time with the interviewee you’re meeting with, both so that they remember the time of the interview and they know how much time you expect to take. Generally, an informational interview should take about 20-60 minutes.

5. Be prepared. Learn as much as you can about the organization your interviewee works for beforehand and jot down any questions that you have as you read about them online. Also, check out their LinkedIn profile and (if applicable) any articles they’ve published.

6. Say thank you. Your interviewee is doing you a favor, so start out the call thanking them for taking time to talk with you, and confirm that it’s still a good time to talk.

7. Be respectful of their time. Whether you’re having the meeting in-person or online, don’t go over the time scheduled time.

8. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s the best way to learn about more about the real world in your field of study. Most people are more than willing to share knowledge to help someone who’s enthusiastic about getting started.

9. Follow up. Send an email or handwritten thank you note to let your interviewee know how much you appreciate their time. Tip: Don’t ask them for anything in the note. Simply let them know how much you appreciate their time.

10. Stay connected. Link in with your interviewee, and find ways to keep in touch. You can always reach out in the future by sharing industry articles or other information that you think they would find helpful.