Learn the dos and don'ts of informational interviewing—what you must do and what to avoid, if you want to be successful.
- In every interview, even informational interviews, there are things you must do, sure. But there are also specific things you must avoid because they're the kiss of death. The list of things you must do starts with research on the contact, company, occupation, and industry. If you show up for the interview and you're obviously unprepared, your contact may be less likely to help you. And make sure you've updated your LinkedIn profile and your social media presence.
Just like you did research on your contact, they'll probably review your LinkedIn profile and Google your name to learn more about you. What they find on social media is actually their first impression, and you want it to be positive. One more thing about an informational interview that's different than a job interview is that you're expected to ask the questions. So prepare questions that are relevant to your area of interest and that will give you insights to the industry, the company, and the type of job you're interested in.
And dress as if you were going on a job interview. This shows your contact that you've taken the time to put your best foot forward in making a good first impression. It's also showing a level of respect for the person who is sharing their time with you. When you're introduced to your contact, greet them with a handshake, a positive attitude, and good eye contact. Attempt to break the ice with some of the knowledge you gained when you researched this person.
Common denominators are often the best icebreakers. Listen intently, take notes, and ask for clarification if you don't understand something. The information this person is sharing can greatly enhance your job search or career, and it's information you won't find anywhere else. Let the person talk about themselves. This is why you came, and they'll like you more. Throughout the meeting, thank them for sharing their expertise, and respect the time frame agreed upon.
Ask if there are other people they would suggest that you network with, and thank them again for their time. And finally, follow up with a thank-you note, and plan to keep in touch with this person. Now, let's switch over to some of the don'ts. Don't arrive unprepared or distracted because you're now wasting this person's time. Don't talk too much. Focus on listening twice as much as you talk.
It's also important not to disagree with opinions shared during your informational interview. Don't give the contact your resume, and don't talk for longer than the time frame you had agree upon. Finally, don't ask for a job. This is not the purpose of an information interview. When you follow these dos and don'ts, your contact will appreciate your preparation, answer more questions, and be more receptive to providing advice and additional networking opportunities.
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- Compare an informational interview to a job interview.
- Identify companies and contacts to interview.
- Prepare for an interview, by researching questions and updating your résumé.
- Conduct an informational interview.
- Analyze the results from your interview.