Recently I’ve been asked about informational interviews. Here are the basics about informational interviews.
An informational interview allows you to contact a person (an expert) to gather information about a position or industry. It’s best if you have a referral introduction, but it’s not required. Do NOT ask for a job at this time. This is an opportunity for you to gather specific information to help you make decisions about this type of position or industry. It also provides an opportunity for someone else to become aware of you, should an opening come up down the road, so be professional.
The interview should take no more than 20-30 minutes. Be sensitive to the person’s time. If they are willing to talk to you when you call to schedule the informational interview, be prepared with your questions. Since you ask the questions, the other person will do most of the talking, providing answers to your questions.
This is your opportunity to ask things you wouldn’t ask when you interview for a position. Consider an informational interview with Mac for the position of B2B marketer. Questions for Mac may include:
- What are the typical responsibilities of a B2B marketer?
- What type of background do you typically look for when hiring a B2B marketer?
- Are there any types of degrees or certificates you prefer when hiring a B2B marketer?
- How long does a B2B marketer usually remain in the role?
- What makes a successful B2B marketer?
Thank Mac for his time. Ask him if there are others he thinks would be a good resource for you as you gather information. If Mac provides you with the name of Sally (and contact information), ask if it’s OK for you to say Mac gave you the referral. Pay attention to what Mac says about Sally. He may say she has a great sense of humor, or wrote the book on B2B marketing. When you contact Sally, let her know Mac referred you and said she was an expert in the area. The ability to initiate contact with a referral AND a compliment, makes it much more likely to get someone to schedule time to talk with you.
A couple of other tips. Ask Mac if you can stay in touch and call him again if you develop additional questions as you continue gathering information. Don’t abuse this privilege!
Send a thank you. Hand written notes are incredibly well received and very rare, so you’ll stand out in Mac’s mind. Periodically touch base with Mac. When you do find a position, let Mac and others know. Even if you’ve decided to change your direction and become a financial advisor rather than a B2B marketer, let Mac know where you are. You’ve started to develop a great network. It’s important to maintain your network, as you never know when you can help someone else, or they can help you.