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You should always send an Informational interview email follow-up. Its not just common courtesy, its good professional practice.
You’ve just exited an informational interview. You thought it went well (or maybe not). If you think that you just need to ponder on what you talked about in the interview and then move onto your next victim, you’re missing an opportunity to build a professional relationship.
You need to play the long game. Nurture your new relationship by keeping in touch with the person you interviewed. Keep up the communication even after you get a job. Send an informational interview email follow-up. Being courteous and generous will keep you front of mind of the people you come in contact with as your career develops. Be helpful. Pay it forward.
Two ideas for keeping in contact
Here’s two ideas for keeping in contact with the person you interviewed.
Send them interesting links
If you come across an article that you think might interest the person you interviewed, send them a link in a short email. Don’t do that too often though. There can be a fine line between being helpful and spamming or creepy. Something along the lines of the following should suffice…
Hi [person name]. I came across this [blog post / news article / conference notification] and thought that you might find it interesting. Here’s the link. Hope you are well. Regards. [your name].
Keep your interviewee updated
Demonstrate that you have listened to their advice. Keep them updated about your progress.
Hi [person name]. Thanks for bringing [topic] to my attention. I took your advice and recently finished a course about it. Interesting topic. I can see why you suggested I do some training in it. Thanks again. [Your name]
How often should you send an informational interview email?
Imagine that you’re good at some ball game. You notice that a young neighbor is struggling with the basics. So you give them some tips on how to throw, catch, hit, or whatever . . . I reckon you’d like to see that the time you took to show them that has made a difference. That they’ve taken notice. Well, its no different in the professional world. People like to know that they’ve had an impact, and often the best way for them to discover that is for you to tell them.
How does that translate to you? Every situation is different. But, I’d suggest that a good starting point might be to contact them “sometimes”, but not “all the time”.
Send a thank-you note
As well as an informational interview email follow-up, you could also post them a more formal thank you note.
Sending a thankyou note is not only common courtesy, it’s a reminder to the person that you interviewed them. It is also an opportunity to pass on your details (including your LinkedIn profile that you updated to reflect what you learnt in your informational interview) in a low key way. Too few people send thankyous. I can tell you from experience, the times I’ve helped people and never heard from them again, I feel a little bit “used”. See this post about what to say in thankyou notes.
Having just said that, my personal preference is to send email follow-ups. To me, a thankyou note implies that you’ve merely ticked a box on a list of informational interview tasks. “Job done. Next informational interview.” In contrast, an informational interview email follow-up implies the beginning of an ongoing conversation. One where you and the person you interviewed can communicate in a frictionless way. By frictionless I mean the difference between having to find your thankyou note and then having to manually type in your email or LinkedIn address (friction), versus just clicking the reply button for an email or a link within your email (frictionless). In sending an informational interview email, you could still follow my advice in my thankyou notes blog post, but just do it within an email.
Keep notes about your interviewee
Memories fade with time. Well, mine do! Write down how you met, and something about your conversation. Some people use a spreadsheet or a word document. Other people use an old-fashioned diary. I create a contact in my phone. That lets me search for someone by their name, workplace, and where I met them (eg. Sam Smith, design engineer, widget conference 2021). A system is only as good as the data in it, so be sure to enter their details correctly!
Keep your new relationship professional
Not everyone in this world is a good person. Sometimes you may interview someone who is not ethical. Some people use their relative power irresponsibly. By power, in your interviewer-interviewee relationship, I mean that because you do not have a job, you’re powerless in the relationship compared to the person you’re interviewing. They have the power to give you a job or recommend you to someone who could give you a job.
Just be sure to always keep your communications on a professional level. Be alert but not alarmed!
Informational interview email follow-ups are essential. They’re not just common courtesy, they’re an opportunity to begin building a professional relationship, and to send your details (including a link to your LinkedIn profile). Keeping in touch can be a delicate balancing act. Think of the kid you helped with their ball-skills. You want to know that they’ve listened to you and that you’ve made a difference to their lives. . . but you don’t want them knocking on your door every other day either!
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