Great Jobs for Portland and Beyond

4 1/2 Things You Must Do in an Informational Interview

Posted on by Jessica Williams

I had the good fortune on Wednesday to attend the 2013 Communicators Conference sponsored by the Portland Metro Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America and the Oregon-Columbia chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators.

One of the conference highlights for me: Michelle Lantow, chief administrative officer for New Season’s Market, told how she found her dream job by having coffee with 65 strangers.

It was an excellent presentation full of valuable tips and a good case study of how informational interviews can make all the difference in a job search. Nevertheless, it was clear from the questions that followed Michelle’s remarks that informational interviews remain a foreign concept to many people.

From how to identify the right people to things not to do in an informational interview, we’ve covered this topic before on the “Mac’s List” blog. But what do you do when you’ve got the person right in front of you?

Before an informational interview, you should research the professional background of the person you’re meeting so that you don’t waste time asking about subjects available online.

Once you’re informational interview begins explain why you requested the appointment, engage in conversation about the person’s career, and describe your goals.

After you’ve covered those basics here are four (and one-half) questions that I recommend everyone ask. 

1. Are there any professional associations you suggest I join?

Did you know there is a group of people for everything? There is, really. Tell the person you’re meeting what you’re interested in doing and ask them if they know of a relevant professional association. Involvement in such organizations is a good way to meet the leaders of your field. If you are considering joining a professional group, you can also ask  if they are familiar with that group.

2. What organizations should I research? 

It is impossible to know about every organization in Oregon that is linked to your mission, so ask your interviewee if they know of any organizations that you should be aware of. This might spark an idea or two about companies that are hiring, transitioning or that are in line with your mission. 

3. Who do you think I should meet? 

If you’ve made a good impression, this is a good way to grow your network. Ask for an introduction. If the person doesn’t have any recommendations, don’t push it but you’ll never get what you don’t ask for. 

4. What volunteer opportunities do you recommend?

Professional associations and nonprofits always need volunteers and board members. This can be a good way to extend your network and to engage with your community.

4 ½. Follow up with a thank-you note and reminder. 

Always follow up. You know this. But in the thank-you note, feel free to politely remind them of what they said they would do. Examples are, “Thank you for offering to connect me with Bonnie of the board”, or “Thank you for offering to send me information about that volunteer opportunity with the coolest organization in the world.”

What questions do you ask in an informational interview?

Image used under Creative Commons from Flickr user theunquietlibrarian

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About Jessica Williams

Jessica Williams is an Account Director at Prichard Communications, publisher of "Mac's List." As a professional in Portland, she writes a weekly post offering up tips and ideas relevant to local jobseekers. You can reach her at jessica@prichardcommunications.com, follow her on Twitter @JessicaJoEllen, or connect with her on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/jessicajoellen/.

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  • Aimee Fahey

    Awesome stuff. The only thing I’d add is, ask “is there anything I can do for you?”. Making sure that the info interview isn’t about them just doing you favors, but how you can contribute, is a great way create a real relationship.

    • http://www.facebook.com/jessicajoellen Jessica Williams

      I agree Aimee! Big fan of helping others and building a foundation for stronger relationships in the professional world.

  • http://www.facebook.com/thomasbcox Thomas Cox

    I ask:

    1. What do you know now, that you wish you’d known when you started in this line of work?
    2. What are 2-3 things someone ALWAYS do, to be successful in this field?
    3. What are 2-3 things someone should NEVER do, to be successful in this field?

    • http://www.facebook.com/jessicajoellen Jessica Williams

      Thomas ~ I love these suggestions. The what do you know now is a great question!!!