5 Tips for Effective (and Fun!) Informational Interviews
The Informational Interview:
Approaching someone to ask for one can be scary — it can seem too much like HI I’M HERE LOOK AT ME I’M TRYING TO FIND OUT EVERYTHING ABOUT ANYTHING SO I CAN EVENTUALLY FIND A JOB.
This is not a post about how to network (that’s a different post), but rather, what to do when you’ve scored a meeting with someone you’d like to learn about.
When I was trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life my senior year of college, I did an informational interview once a week. By interviewing entrepreneurs, marketers, PR directors, and more, it lead me to working as the head of communications and marketing for a company of 5,000
I was in New York for informational interviews –both personal networking, and my business venture for school— and these 5 tips really helped me out!
1. Know your audience
It's time to find out everything about the person you're interviewing...and I mean everything. 99% of this information will never actually come out in an interview, but do your homework. For example, I know what company my interviewee works for now — what she does, where her office is. I know where she went to school. I know what companies she worked for in the past, and what she did there.
A more (thorough) stalking of social media and the like tells me she just got married in June, her sister is getting married and she’s helping in the wedding dress search, and she’s obsessed with dogs…among other things.
When you have a bunch of information from Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, their portfolio, etc., make what I like to call a STALKER SHEET, and put all the info in one place. Having all this information will make a stranger feel like a real person, and will give you some general talking points.
2. Buy their coffee/lunch
This one’s simple — they took the time to meet you and are (fingers crossed) going to give you some great advice. A simple way to repay them is by insisting on purchasing their drink or meal.
3. Ask thoughtful, not-leading questions
Make sure you are asking questions that cannot possibly be answered with one word, and make sure they don’t lead to the answer you (or they) expect.
Example: instead of “Do you like your job?”, ask “What is your favorite part about your job?” or “Is your workplace fun?”, ask “What’s the workplace culture like?”
Then dig even deeper.
If you’re interviewing someone from an advertising agency, ask them about their experience in agency life, and how that experience may differ from an in-house approach. Ask your general questions, and then play to their experience and pull the information you need/want.
Here are some great questions to ask if you need a place to get started.
4. Always ask the key end-of-interview question
“Can you suggest the names of two or three other people I might contact for more information?”
5. Send a thank you
Another simple one, but easy to overlook. An email works great, but a handwritten note says so much more in this world of crazy, impersonal communication.
Be sure to include personal details about what you talked about in the interview — it jogs the memory, and gives a friendly vibe.
I also like to include a sentence like, “I am looking forward to growing a great professional relationship with you!” AND THEN ACTUALLY DO IT. Keep in touch.
Go get ’em. You’re gonna rock it.
Any other tips you recommend? I’d love to know! Comment below!
Originally published for GenY Girl