Informational interviews have a number of things going against them. They sound boring, ineffective and most importantly are hard to get. However, in reality, they aren’t hard to get at all and, if leveraged effectively, will increase your chances of finding and being considered for jobs, especially the “hidden” ones.
Unfortunately, many job seekers fail to request the interviews properly and as a result, actually turn off or lose the “interviewee” altogether. Here are eight secrets for effectively requesting and successfully getting informational interviews:
1. Email, don’t call. Emailing or sending a message via LinkedIn allows the recipient to choose to respond at their own leisure and doesn’t interrupt their schedule.
2. Make GRAMMAR your new best friend. I know we all use spell-check nowadays, but honestly, proofread anything and everything you write to any professional. It doesn’t matter how well they write, they have a job and you don’t yet, so make sure everything from punctuation to capitalization is perfect. If possible, ask someone else you trust to read your outgoing messages to these professionals just for outside perspective. This is especially important if English is not your first language.
3. Hook them with your subject line. No matter how you know the person you want to contact, the subject of your message has to be personal and direct to catch their attention and move them to read it. If you don’t know the person, consider using “John – Question from a Student” or “John – Request for Informational Interview.” If you do know them, I recommend “John – Request from Chris Perry” or if you don’t know them personally, but went to the same college or have something in common, I recommend something along the lines of “John – Request from a W&M Student.”
4. Briefly introduce yourself. In a short first paragraph, state your name, who you are and what you are doing. Remember, busy people don’t have time to read long messages. Keep it short, sweet and to the point.
5. Command the common ground. If someone who knows them has referred you or you have something significant in common with the person (i.e. college, professional organization), make sure to include this at the end of your first paragraph or at the beginning of your second. A stronger connection or link between you both can only help you get the interview.
6. They know you want a job, so don’t ask for one! In your next paragraph, this is where you make the direct request for the informational interview; however, DON’T ask them upfront for help to get you a job in their company, as they already know you’re interested in opportunities in their company or you wouldn’t be contacting them. I recommend you make it more about them and ask them for the opportunity to speak about THEIR career, how THEY got involved in it, THEIR company and/or its culture.
7. NEVER send your resume to them with your initial request. This looks presumptuous and inconsiderate and your resume just implies that you expect them to take time to look at it and more time to send it to the right person BEFORE they have even had a chance to “yes” or “no” to your request. If you are emailing them, include a link to your LinkedIn profile in your signature, and if you are sending a message via LinkedIn, there is no need, as you are already on that network. Let them be the one that request more information from you.
8. Don’t Forget Your Contact Info. Make sure to have a professional email/message signature with all possible methods of contact listed. This way, you look good, but they can also get in touch with you in whatever way they prefer. You might even tastefully include a link to your LinkedIn profile, personal website or other supporting media online. This is more appropriate than a resume, because it offers them the option of seeking more info about you.
Chris Perry, MBA is a Gen Y brand and marketing generator, a career search and personal branding expert and the founder of Career Rocketeer, Launchpad, Blogaristo and more.