Last week I spoke in one of my old college Public Relations association's meeting on a young professionals panel for students interested in PR and communication careers. Going back to my college campus definitely made me nostalgic, but I loved being able to share my 'year' of wisdom with current students and help empower them to take on their careers.
One of the topics during this panel that kept coming up was the importance of informational interviews during the job search. So I thought this week would be a good time to share with all of you some key informational interview tips.
But first...what is an informational interview?
It's a 30-minute to an hour conversation with a professional you admire, future mentor, or potential employer. It's important to note that these are the farthest thing from a job interview. The goal of an informational interview is to gain advice, insight, and guidance into a specific industry, company, or life stage.
Tip #1: How to Reach Out
The informational interview asks can be done over LinkedIn or email, letting the designated professional know why you want to connect with them, what you'd like to get from the connection, and what you two have common.
For example, "Hi I'm XYZ, and I'm a fellow CU Buff as well! John Doe passed along your contact information to me and mentioned you are a great person to learn from when it comes to XYZ. As a recent grad, I would love to pick your brain about XYZ over coffee. Are you available for a meet up in the next few weeks? I know you're busy and time is valuable, but I would love to gain insight on XYZ!"
Never reach out blind, always have a reason for why you're connecting with someone. Whether it's the same college, a company of interest, or a suggestion form a mutual colleague, let them know why you want to connect. Again, it's never a job inquiry. the purpose is to gain advice and insight.
Tip #2: How to Prepare for an Informational Interview
Research!!! Look up their LinkedIn, study their company, think about the valuable pieces of advice you'd like to gain from the conversation. Come prepared with 5- 7 questions, because their time is valuable and you don't want to waste it if they're taking time out of their busy work schedule to meet you.
When it comes to what questions to ask, the most important one is "Who else can I speak with?" This not only keeps the conversations going and the doors open with that company or industry, but shows that you're eager to learn and what to continue the search of knowledge and growth. But remember, it should be a conversation, don't make it a grilling interview. Open up, be your authentic self, and seek to build a genuine connection with the professional you're meeting up with for coffee or over the phone.
Tip #3: Follow Up
Most importantly, be sure to thank the professional for the interview after the fact, whether that's sending a thank you card or email. Let them know how much it meant to you, reiterate what you learned from them, and stay in touch!
If you're not already connected on LinkedIn, do so now. Keep the door open and the conversation flowing.
Well Ramblers, I hope this helps those of you who are amid job searching! And remember, even if you're happy in your career you can ALWAYS keep doing informational interviews to stay sharp on industry knowledge, meet new people, and keep options open.