If you’re a recent grad and feel like you’ve exhausted your job search strategies, making a point to set up informational interviews is a great way to keep the ball rolling. Having lunch or grabbing coffee with a professional in your field of interest is one of the best ways to better acquaint yourself with aspects of the industry that you probably didn’t learn about in school. What does the workday look like? How much energy gets devoted to each of their responsibilities? You might be surprised to learn about what your dream position actually entails.
Don’t let preconceived notions about a type of position overrun your job search and career goals. The more information you learn about real world positions, the better able to refine your job search to positions that best match your experience and goals you’ll be. To help you line up as many informational interviews as you can , we’ve broken down on the do’s, don’ts, how’s and how-not’s of informational interviewing. We know it can be hard to motivate yourself to reach out when a job offer isn’t necessarily a potential outcome, but trust us; taking the time to get to know people in your industry is worth the extra effort. And it’ll probably land you a job offer in the long run.
*Pro Tip: Maybe try not to schedule all of your information interviews over coffee—because, health),
Your primary objective is to come away with useful information about industry realities and your interviewee’s experience as well as information about which company or companies are hiring in your chosen field. No matter how much you may want to ask, the point of this interview is not to ask for a job.
However you should treat the meeting as you would a real interview. After all, your goal is to make a good impression and maintain a positive relationship with this new member of your network.
How to Land it
Setting up meetings with new contacts gets easier over time. The more people you meet with, the larger your potential network becomes and the more people they can introduce you to. To start out, ask your friends and family members if they have any contacts that work in your field of interest, or even a related field. Reach out to these individuals by shooting them an email, and CC your mutual contact.
Then you can move to your “cold contacts,” i.e. people you have no connection to (yet.) It might be easiest to request an informational interview from the HR department of a company you’re interested in. However, it’s important to ask to meet a specific person as opposed to emailing an entire department. Introduce yourself as you would in a cover letter, and let them know you’re interested in learning about their company, the work they do, or contemporary dilemmas in their industry. If possible, be specific and show that you’ve already done some research. Also, attach an updated resume to give them a bit more context about your background.
Don’t get discouraged when you don’t hear back from everyone, because you probably won’t (trust us). But if you don’t hear back from your dream company, send a follow up note! People are always more interested in helping when they know you’re not willing to let a first rejection stop you. And if they don’t respond, just remember that it probably isn’t you. They probably are just really busy. Here’s the upside: when someone does get back to you, it means they’re in a good position to offer real help to you as an informational interview.
Learn about them:
First (and I can’t stress this enough), come prepared to your informational interview! To get the most out of the time you have, make sure you’ve thought through questions you want to ask, and, of course, bring something to take notes. Your goal is to tease out aspects of their job that can’t be unearthed on Google, so make sure to research everything you can about them and their company beforehand.
Second, be both broad and specific. Ask about the industry at large and their relationship to related fields to better understand the scope of job possibilities associated with your interest. But also ask about smaller details. What people do they work with on a daily basis? How do departments communicate and collaborate on projects together? What time do they get to the office in the morning?
This kind of information will help you narrow in on a more specific job title that fits with your interests, personality and lack of real-world experience. Don’t forget to find out about your interviews’ career path. What led them to where they are today? What tools did they use to get there? This kind of information will help you hone in on what you’re doing right and what you could be doing differently to reach your goals.
Learn about yourself:
Once you have a better understanding of your interviews’ position and background, you can start to address how you might fit into their world. You’ve already sent them your resume, but don’t be offended if they haven’t had the time to inspect it thoroughly. Bring a new copy for them to look over, and ask their opinion. How does your experience compare to other entry-level applicants? This is a great opportunity to get honest feedback about your strengths and weaknesses from an industry professional. You might even find out that you’re not organizing the information in a way that best presents what you have to offer. In that case, they’ll probably have advice for how to optimize your resume for their particular industry. Take it.
Follow up and get references:
Always send a thank you note after the informational interview, and continue to touch base with them as your job search progresses. If an opening pops up at their company, you want to be the first candidate in mind. Also, if the person you’ve met with can put you in contact with someone they think will be helpful to your job search, they’ll likely bring it up on their own. However, don’t be shy about asking for these other professional references.
Here’s what you’ll accomplish:
Perspective, confidence, and the ability to target what you really want in your job search. Believe us, once you’re equipped with more information, you’ll instantly become a more viable job candidate. Good luck!
Alex Goldstein is a Social Media and Marketing Design Intern at FirstJob, and graduated from UCLA with a B.A. in Art History and World Arts and Cultures. She has recently fallen in love with scuba diving and plans to work on a dive boat in the future!