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Here’s how to conduct an informational interview

Here’s how to conduct an informational interview: No resume! Dress appropriately. Be a good host. Don’t be negative. Phone off! Keep it short. Take notes.

Let’s talk about how to conduct an informational interview. You should have prepared for the interview by researching the business and your interviewee. You need to achieve two things here…

Impress the person you’re interviewing with your professionality. Get yourself on their radar and potentially begin a long professional relationship with them.Get the inside scoop on what its like to work in that profession, and to understand the gaps in your skillset that you need to fill if you’re going to be a good candidate.

Leave your resume at home

They already have a link to your LinkedIn profile in the confirmation email you sent them so don’t take your resume unless you’re asked to. You can email that later if they request it. Otherwise you’re putting your interviewee on the spot and turning a friendly chat into an interview. That would completely change the dynamic of your meeting.

Dress appropriately

Dress for your appointment as though you already work there. If you don’t know what that workplace’s business code is, you can get some hints by looking at the LinkedIn profiles for the business’ current employees.

Be a good host 

I can’t stress this enough. You are the host and your interviewee is the guest. It’s your treat. Be generous. It promotes a more relaxed and reciprocal atmosphere. Don’t be one of those people who always missing when its their turn to buy drinks. They may think they get away with it, but people notice. Trust me. 

When I first started consulting, I once spent my last $20 buying drinks for someone I wanted to work with. He knew I was starting out, but he had no idea it was my last $20. But, those drinks were the beginning of our friendship. We went on to team up and do lots of work together. 

If you’re not experienced at being a host, then go to a busy business district café on a workday and watch how other people do it. Heck, if you need practice, it may even be a good excuse to ask someone on a date.

Don’t talk about these things

You may be poor but that’s not your guest’s problem. Never comment on menu prices. It will just make them feel uncomfortable.Under no circumstances should you ask your guest for a job. Job discussions should only be raised by them.Under no circumstances should you go on about how hard it is to find a job. Or vent your frustration that you don’t get return calls. It’s not your interviewee’s job to care about that. They’ve offered to give you time, so don’t waste it by talking about yourself, especially negative stuff. If job seeking comes up then just say something like “Yeah. Frustrating at times. But I think a fairly common experience for recent graduates.”

Turn off your phone

Its rude to check texts and answer calls while in a meeting. The person calling you can wait 20 minutes.

Greeting your interviewee at a café 

Greet the person with a smile. Then say something along the lines of… Hello [their name] (and while handing over your business card. . . I’m [your first name]. Thanks so much for taking the time to meet with me. I really appreciate it. Coffee? Tea? Hot chocolate? Cake?  

Getting down to business 

After the niceties, they might say something like thanks for the morning tea. How can I help you? Or you might say something like I’m conscious that I’m taking your time so let me start by telling you a little about myself and what I’m hoping to gain from this meeting. 

Then you might say something like I’m about to finish my degree in [profession] and I’m hoping to do ten or so information interviews to help me understand how I should focus my job search. And what expertise gaps I might need to fill in order to make me a better candidate. My [neighbor / some other person from the industry] suggested you might be a good person to help me understand that. Then ask if its OK if I make a start, and with their permission, go on to ask your questions.

Keep your meeting to 20 minutes 

Remember. They’re a busy person who’s agreed to your request for 20 minutes of their time. Some people will be pissed off if you don’t keep to your promise. When you’re approaching 20 minutes, acknowledge that your 20 minutes is up. They might say that’s its OK to keep going. If you do keep going, don’t abuse their generosity. If you’ve still got lots of questions left, ask just a few more. After all, that’s why you ordered your questions from most important to least important. 

Take notes

That tells the person that you’re taking the meeting seriously. 

Click here to learn about what to do after your informational interview

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