Two weeks ago, I received a LinkedIn connection invite and message from a fellow human resources professional. He was interested in learning more about the experience I had throughout my graduate program, as he was in the process of finding one that was the right fit for him.
I suddenly thought back to when I was also in his shoes, and couldn't help but realize that I never once thought about picking someone's brain about their experience in the graduate program. Smart kid I thought!
After my almost thirty-minute conversation with him, I was ONE, honored that he thought I would be a valuable resource in his decision making, and TWO, thought that he really did a great job at asking the right questions for valuable responses.
This, my friend, is called an informational interview. If this is your first time hearing the term, you aren't alone. Only about 50% of people use this method, meaning it is extremely underutilized. So as always, I'm about to give you the juice!
Here's what it means:
An informational interview is a one-on-one conversation with someone who has a job you might like, who works within an industry you might want to enter, or who is employed by a specific company that you're interested in learning about. These interviews are excellent options for plotting a career path or focusing your aspirations. (Source)
Informational Interviews are a great way to have a conversation with someone who has experience in something you are interested in pursuing. It is a great way to help with mapping out your future plans and goals.
Here are 7 things you should know about Information Interviews.
1) Reach out via LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is the best and most professional way to connect with someone for this purpose. When reaching out, make sure that you give them a brief introduction as to who you are, explain why you are reaching out, and ask if you can take some time out to have a brief conversation or meeting. And that's it.
2) You can have them in person or over the phone
Informational Interviews can be done over the phone or in person. Find out what is most convenient for the person you are reaching out to since you will be taking time out of their day. When picking someone's brain, a phone conversation is ideal. If you are interested in making a genuine connection with someone about a job opportunity or learn more about the industry they work in, this is when an in-person meeting would be more ideal.
3) Have a clear objective of what you want to get out of the conversation.
Prepare a detailed list of questions to ask. In doing so, this will allow for the meeting to flow smoothly and for you to know what answers you want to get out of the conversation.
4) Keep the conversation brief - 15- 30 minutes max!
Don't take up too much of their time. Time is of the essence. So keep the meeting or phone conversation within the time constraints your both decided on.
5) Do research about the person and incorporate them into the conversation
Use LinkedIn to do some research on the person that you will be speaking with. See what college they went to, their career path, what their interests are, etc. These are great icebreakers to get the conversation going.
6) Follow up with a Thank You Email!
Take the time to send a quick thank you email expressing your gratitude. Professionals are busy, so the fact that they took the time out to speak with you is major!
7) Don't expect to get a job or opportunity afterward (Nothing is Guaranteed)
If you're meeting with someone about a job opportunity, don't get your hopes up. Meeting with an industry professional doesn't mean that you have a shoe-in for the next job opportunity that opens up at their company. Be patient and be more concerned about forging a genuine relationship with them.