The most challenging part of doing an Informational Interview is setting it up. Here is a step-by-step guide:
1. Shortlist or Longlist the industries/sectors/roles you are interested in finding out more about. Don’t worry that they don’t have anything in common – now is the time to think laterally.
2. Find someone you know, or someone who knows someone you know in each area you want to research. – use LinkedIn to get contacts.
3. Take a deep breath and contact them- they won’t bite! I usually prefer
emailing first to say what I want to talk about and then call the next day to set up the meeting.
4. Explain in a few well chosen and well practiced lines why you want to meet them. This is where it is OK to tell them that you don’t know much about the industry or jobs within the industry. If you did you wouldn’t be meeting them. It’s OK to say “I don’t know”. The purpose of the meeting is to fill the knowledge gaps.
5. Decide what your aim is for the meeting and prepare your questions. Be organised. Ask them if they would like you to send the questions to them in advance of meeting.
6. Listen to what they tell you. Surveys have shown that the majority of people listen with the intent to respond rather than listening to understand – be the latter!
7. NEVER ask them if they know of any vacancies in their company – that puts them in a very awkward position. This is a meeting for you to gather information that may lead to you getting closer to securing a job, not a meeting to interrogate someone about getting you a job.
8. Always, always, ALWAYS send an email or call them afterwards to thank them for their time and advice.