How to ace the informational interview
As you begin your career journey, you will start to notice the importance of creating connections with other professionals in your industry. Networking can not only open up potential job opportunities, but it gives you a chance to obtain more insights into the industry.
For many people, the hardest part is getting the nerves up to ask someone for an informational interview. If the idea of networking scares the heck out of you, check out my blog post that contains some helpful tips on growing your network!
So you get over your nerves, send that message to a professional connection, and they have agreed to a 20-30 minute informational interview. Awesome! Now, what should you do to make sure you make the most out of this opportunity?
Here are some tips to help you ace your informational interview and get everything out of it that you can.
There's nothing more unprofessional and embarrassing than showing up for an interview of any sort with little to no knowledge of the person you are speaking with. Research the company your interviewee works for. Get an idea of their experience from their LinkedIn page. Check out their portfolio to see past work they have been apart of. Coming prepared sets the meeting off on the right foot and helps you when coming up with questions to ask your interviewee.
2. Understand your goal for the informational interview
Your intentions for the call could differ depending on who you're talking to. Maybe you were able to land a call with someone who works for your dream company. Maybe you're talking to someone who isn't directly in your current career path but works in a field that is of interest to you. By understanding your goal of the interview before you schedule it, you're able to prepare your questions in a much more focused and intentional way.
3. Memorize your elevator pitch
In any interview, whether it's an informal chat or an interview for a job, you should have your elevator pitch memorized so that you can explain who you are and what you're about whenever it's asked. In my informational interviews, I always like to start the conversation by giving a quick background of myself, what I'm doing now, and what I'm currently aiming for. This quick introduction gives your interviewee an insight into who you are right away.
4. Prepare questions beforehand
Informational interviews aren't the time to ask your connection for a job. This is the time to get an insight into the industry, the companies they have worked for, the challenges they have faced, and what it takes to be successful in their field. Prepare questions that directly relate to their experience or their current position. This is an easy way to show that you have done your research (refer to step 1). Avoid asking personal questions, such as inquiring about their salary. You want to leave the interview with a positive impression on your interviewee, and the last thing you should talk about is money.
5. Ask for more connections
This step is so important. At the early stages of pivoting a career or entering the workforce, networking is everything. End your interview by asking if they have anyone in mind that they believe could be a worthwhile connection for you. You'll be surprised by how often your interviewee will say yes. They might even set up a call with another professional for you!
6. Follow up
We are all busy, so if someone agrees to take even 30 minutes out of their day to talk to you about their experience, that calls for a followed up thank you note. This message doesn't have to be too long! It can be as simple as connecting with them on LinkedIn and sending a 3-4 sentence note thanking them for their time. If they mention something that stood out to you during your chat, bring that up in your follow-up and how it resonated with you!
Asking for an informational interview is the hard part. Once that happens, the pressure is off! As long as you do your research beforehand and prepare your questions, you should find that the effort was worth it.
The most important thing is to be yourself and have fun! These can be insightful and enjoyable conversations. Treat it as a conversation with a friend and enjoy yourself. If someone has agreed to chat with a stranger to help them progress in their career journey, they're more likely than not a cool, down-to-earth person who is easy to talk to.
If you need some more help on how to go about preparing for an informational interview, just reach out!