Informational interviews are a great way to build your network and improve your chances of landing a great job. If you’ve spent any time here at Mac’s List, you know the importance of this tactic. But it can be tough to know who to ask for an informational interview.
Often it pays to go beyond your industry and existing professional sphere when seeking out new people to talk to. Think outside the box, and you’ll be surprised at what you can find out.
Why you should conduct informational interviews
So you already know that informational interviews are a powerful tool. By reaching out to new people and asking them about their career experiences, you’ll achieve a lot. Keep these goals in mind:
- Gain real-world knowledge about work, careers, and industries from other professionals.
- Gather insider information about the company where your interviewee works, as well as other companies in the industry.
- Get a foot in the door at a specific company. Even if you’re not applying there now, you can connect with this person again if you want to get in later.
- Grow your network. One of the best parts of informational interviews is asking, “Who else should I talk to?” They’ll likely hand you 2 or 3 hot leads to contact, thus growing your network exponentially.
How to choose people to ask
There’s a right and a wrong way to ask for an informational interview, but before you make your ask you need to figure out who to target. Choose your approach based on your personal goal for these informational interviews. If you want to work at a specific company, mine Facebook and LinkedIn for connections who work there, and reach out to them first. If you’re interested in a new industry, start with leaders of professional organizations in your city – they’re often willing to meet.
But don’t limit yourself to the job and industry you want. In today’s multi-dimensional career world, everybody knows somebody, or at least has a gem of career wisdom to share. It’s invaluable to take the time to chat careers with the people you interact with regularly.
Be a career investigator
Consider some less likely sources for your informational interviews. If you’re recently unemployed or looking for a career change, you’re likely already talking about your career with the people around you. Take it a step further by turning these conversations into informational interviews and you’ll achieve some of your key goals and learn new things about your existing connections.
Here are five people you already know who you can talk to:
Your friends and acquaintances move in other circles and may have career connections you never knew about.
Think you already know all about your mom’s work life? Your parents can share invaluable insights into long-term career management.
Older folks (and younger folks, too!)
Many people ignore older workers. Instead, see the value you can gain from experienced professionals. They have all the more to share.
Likewise, interview people who are younger than you. They have fresh perspective and insights into what’s coming next.
Your alumni network
Alumni networks are one of the most powerful–but also least used–resources job seekers have. Sharing an alma mater can create a strong connection with someone you don’t otherwise know. Most universities maintain huge alumni databases and will share this information with former students.
Book club members and workout buddies
When you have one thing in common, that may be all you talk about. Dive a little deeper with acquaintances and you’re sure to uncover some great insights.
Don’t forget to follow interview etiquette when you’re talking to people outside your normal professional life. Everyone likes a sincere and appreciative “thank you” to conclude an interview.