How to Ask For (And Nail) An Informational Interview
So you’re in the market for your dream job and all the preliminary pieces are in place: your resume is updated and looking super slick, your fingernails are (mostly) clean. And then whaddya know; one day, you come across an amazing-sounding company that you’d love to bust your tail for.
Cue the existential crisis. The pressure that comes with applying for a job and then eventually landing that big interview is no joke; it can feel like your whole future is riding on this one encounter with a hiring manager. Before you get to that point, you want to make sure you’re as prepared as you can be and have all the information you need to blow their socks off.
Enter the informational interview. It’s a mini interview before the big interview, wherein you’ll be able to glean some insight as to how the company works and what they’re looking for from someone who has firsthand knowledge about the company—a recon mission, if you will. It’s a terrific opportunity if you’re able to land an informational interview, though it requires a lot of tact; check out the tips below for bettering your chances of scoring invaluable insight that’ll put you ahead of your competition:
1. Reach out to the right person. If you’re looking to break into a massive company, it’s highly unlikely the CEO will sit down with you. Look to approach someone in a more mid-level role who may have previously held the position you covet. If the company is smaller, you can try your hand with more senior staffers, though that still can be a long shot. When sending an email, keep it brief and professional. Introduce yourself and ask for a short phone call or coffee meetup so you can learn more about the company. Make it as easy for them to agree to a meeting as you possibly can; pick a location close to the office and let them schedule a time that is convenient for them.
2. Do your research and ask thoughtful questions. This may be your dream company, but how much do you know about their scope of work and their history? Do your research and come prepared to talk about some recent projects or initiatives they’ve done and what you admire about them. Same goes for the person you’re meeting with. Use this as an opportunity to show your understanding of the company’s business model. Ask about what a typical day at the company is like and what advice the person has for moving forward in the field.
3. Don’t be afraid to follow up. An initial follow up to say thank you is a must, but don’t be afraid to reach out in the future if there’s a need. You may feel like you’re being a pest, but if it’s a protracted hiring process and they’re looking at a large number of candidates, reach out to the person and check in. Send a short update highlighting one or two work accomplishments you’ve had since you last spoke. This will keep you fresh in the person’s mind and when it comes down to decision time, hopefully you’ll be the first person they think of.