All that you ever wanted to know about making a great impression during an Informational Interview
Informational Interviews are very useful for job search and networking. Here's how you can ensure you leave a good impression.
You've probably heard us gush about how beneficial informational interviews can be for one's career. We think it's a great way to elicit hard-to-find information from industry insiders, kick start one's job search as well as broaden one's network. Just like any other interview, it's crucial for one to make a great impression on the interviewer. Follow these steps in order to ace that all-important informational interview.
1. Choose the Right Person
Don't interview anybody just because they're willing to be interviewed. Start by making a list of your dream companies & roles. Try to find individuals who fit into both roles - i.e. they work at your dream company in a role that you aspire to take up. If not, someone who fits into either list will do.
2. Make a clear, specific & considerate ask
The individuals you approach are most probably busy so your chances of successfully getting an interview are on the lower side. Nonetheless, you can improve your chances by making a clear and specific ask in your email / phone call. You may also wish to point out some common experiences (alumni of a particular college / avid trekkers / members of XYZ Society ) or mutual friends in your social / professional circle. This is a good hook and could help your chances of setting up an interview with them. Convey that you are aware of their busy schedule and only intend to take up 15-20 minutes of their time.
Don't emphasize that you're looking for a job out of this interview. In that case, your interviewer just might be tempted to send you a list of job openings. Instead, convey that the meeting is to get a better understanding of their experiences and career trajectory.
3. Be persistent in your follow-up
If you haven't heard back from the individual in one week's time, ensure that you follow-up with him / her. If there is still no response, try other platforms. I would recommend following up 3-4 times and no more than that.
4. Do your research
Don't go to the informational interview unprepared. Do take time to thoroughly research the individual and the organization they work for. Make sure you know enough about the person you are interviewing and their workplace to ask in-depth questions.
5. Treat it like you would any other interview
Just because this is an informational interview doesn't mean you should take it any less seriously. If you're meeting in person, wear suitable, well-ironed clothes and footwear, look presentable, and reach the venue at least 10-15 minutes ahead of time.
You should also come prepared with answers to questions on your skills, experiences, knowledge, personality, etc. that he/she may ask.
[Also Read: The Ultimate Guide to Giving Great Interviews]
6. Encourage them to talk about themselves
People love talking about themselves and therefore, you should encourage that. Initiate the conversation by asking some background or context questions to him/ her such as:
- When did you start working in the XYZ Industry?
- What projects are you a part of currently?
7. Ask open-ended questions
To keep the conversation flowing naturally, you should ask open-ended questions which cannot be answered by a simple yes or no. Use your time to ask questions about their role and experiences and to elicit tips from them. Examples of questions you can ask include:
- What are the day-to-day responsibilities of your job?
- What are your biggest challenges and rewards?
8. Be Mindful of his / her Time
Do be aware of the time. Sticking to the time agreed and respecting his / her schedule will help you appear professional and also make him / her more likely to meet up with you again or set you up with someone else in the future. When there are 5 minutes left on the clock, inform him / her that it is almost time to wrap up the interview and pose one last question that you may have. Leave it up to him / her to extend the interview.
9. Send a thank-you note
Don't forget to thank the person you interviewed by sending them a thank you message. Keep it short and specific. Let them know that you appreciate them making time to see you / talk to you. Ensure your note contains:
- an expression of your gratitude for the opportunity to speak with them
- one key takeaway from the conversation
- a sentence on how you would love to stay in touch with them
- a request to keep you apprised of any future openings in their organization
- (if applicable): a reminder to let you know when to follow-up, or whom to reach out to next.