Networking and the Informational Interview

Tuesday, January 12th, 2016
informational interview

Why do we network?  What do we hope to gain from making connections? Ultimately it’s to help each other out, to build strong mutually beneficial relationships, but sometimes we may benefit more from the connection we make than the other person.  This could mean that an informational interview may arise out of the growing connections you are making.

So let’s say that you spoke to someone in your field and you both agreed to have a coffee so you can pick their brain on the industry, AWESOME!  But now what?

Here is some information on what an informational interview is and some etiquette when having one.

  1.  An informational Interview is an informal conversation with someone who is working in a field in which you are interested. This meeting allows you to gain information about the industry and advice from someone working in it currently.  Please understand an informational interview is not a job interview and the objective is not to find a job (though it’s nice when that happens)
  2. You should always prepare for informational interviews.  Informational interviews can take place in the person’s office or even in a coffee shop.  Preparation is key when meeting with industry experts, this can include:
    • Conducting research on the company, industry and bring a list of questions to ask
    • Be sure to dress the part, don’t show up in your sweats, it’s better to overdress than  under dress, pick out your outfit in advance
    • Bring a pen and paper, but please don’t write during the meeting, if you scribble a few things down that is OK, but spend your time focussing on the person meeting you. After the meeting have a brain dump, write everything you can remember
    • Bring your wallet and offer to pay for a coffee/tea if you are out somewhere, this person is spending their time to help you, a coffee/tea is the least you can do
    • Bring a copy of your resume, portfolio, or anything you feel would be valuable to show the person you are meeting with
    • If you have a business card, bring that too
  3. During the meeting there are a few behaviors to keep in mind.
    • First,arrive 5-10 minutes early for your meeting
    • When you meet be sure to introduce yourself ( if you haven’t already met), smile, make eye contact and offer a firm handshake
    • If you do get something to eat, be sure to get something that is not to messy or doesn’t cause you slurp (such as spaghetti)
    • Do not interrupt the person, listen attentively, taking in all useful information the person is providing you with
  4. After the meeting be sure to
    • Send a thank you card, a written card is a nice surprise.  In the card thank the person for taking time to meet with you, discuss some great aspects of the conversation and end with a hard copy signature and include your business card
    • Follow up.  At the end of an informational interview, ask if you can follow up with the person in the future, if they say you can, do it.  Always reach out, maybe in an email with an interesting article they would enjoy, an update on your job search, which ever way you follow up, be sure to do so.

An informational interview can open doors for your career and allow for you to learn about industry trends, organizations that may be hiring, and ways to improve your marketability

Check out this resource. A list of sample informational interview questions. Get it FREE here.

Some References used:

Ashley Burke is the Owner and CEO of Run With It.  She currently works in the career development field and works hand in hand with recent graduates to help them in their job search. 

Author: The NetWorkIt Team

The NetWorkIt Team is based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. We work to create content and tools to help you succeed in your career.