Recently in my PR program at Mohawk, we were given the task of completing an informational interview as an assignment. This was a great way to force us students to realize that we need to get in gear. While I have been networking over the course of this program, I had not conducted an info interview yet and I was excited to get started. In fact, this excitement lead to 4 informational interviews, more than was required. But the thing is, info interview are helpful for my career beyond an assignment, and now is the best time to be doing them.
So I took the time to seek out new contacts and set up info interviews. I have my first one tomorrow, which I will share with you here in a follow-up post. Now I want to take the time to share some knowledge I have gained on info interviews and why they are important for student and soon-to-be professionals.
But wait. Before you go any further here is a caution: informational interviews are not job interviews. Why I am beginning with this forewarning is to clarify misconceptions that you are attempting to get a job from info interviews and ease any hesitations you may have about actually doing info interviews. Also, because info interviews are not filled with pressure and nerves like job interviews are, they should be something you look forward to. They should also be a means to your end of learning more about the industry that you want to work in and the profession that you are striving for. You may be asking why bother with info interviews if you already have a lot on your plate preparing for graduation. Look at it as an opportunity to learn more about the job you may get. It could also lead to a job prospect down the line. And any job opportunity is a good thing.
The 5 Steps of Informational Interviews
1. Make Contact
- Search out professionals in your field that are located within a traveling distance that you are comfortable with. It is futile to contact someone that you are unable to reach if you don’t have a car.
- Contact them (email or phone) to introduce yourself and ask for an interview. Make your intent clear and keep the emails minimal else you become annoying.
2. Preparation is Key
- Schedule a mutually agreeable time to meet, preferably at their office (unless they suggest coffee at a shop nearby).
- Research the company they work for so you have an idea of the work they do. This will help you in knowing how to interview them.
- Prepare a list of questions to bring along.
3. Do it Professionally
- Show up to the interview early, dressed professionally. Introduce yourself and immediately thank them for meeting with you. Be honest in why you approached them, and be courteous in not taking up too much of their time.
- They may ask to know more about you, so be prepared to answer this question with a 30 second commercial or personal pitch.
- You should have a resume handy in case they ask too. But don’t give it to them unless asked.
4. The Q & A
- Ask your questions, and take notes. You may want to ask them if you can record the interview with your phone or voice recorder to better capture their answers.
- Once the interview comes to a close one of the last questions you ask should be a referral.
- Ask them if they know anyone else you should talk to.
- Ask them for their business card so you can keep in touch post interview. Even better, show up with your own business card handy as well.
- Thank them profusely, but don’t act silly.
- Follow-up the interview with a formal thank you by email or mail.
- Keep in contact, with brief messages, maybe through LinkedIn.
- This person is now a connection in your network.
I also suggest you seek out additional information on informational interviews. This blog post addresses 5 things you should remember that are complimentary to the ones above.
To know more about the types of question check out the list here.
And to know what a Thank You Letter looks like check out this link.
You can also check out my other post of networking for student on the IABC Toronto Blog: Conversations.
What do you think about informational interviews? have you done any?
Stay tuned for more on my informational interviews.
P.S. Good luck with your own.