Monday, May 8, 2017

What, Why, and How to Ask for an Informational Interview

Are you looking for a new job or an internship? I'm sharing informational interviews 101 to help you further your career development and hopefully get to your next step.

I’ve probably completed over 100 informational interviews in my life. I completed four internships during college and have worked four different jobs out of college. Rotating through my internships and jobs would not have been the same if I hadn’t taken the time to do an informational interview. 
I’ve used informational interviews to learn about the company and roles I might be interested in.

Who is this post for?
If you are looking for a new job or looking for an internship, or looking to learn about a new role, function, or industry, this post is for you.

Today I'll be covering the what, why, and how to ask for an informational interview.

What is an informational interview?
An informational interview is an informal meeting where you reach out to someone to learn about their career, role, or industry. Whether you are a student, an intern, unemployed, or employed, you can reach to someone in the company to learn about corporate culture and career growth. 

Why should you ask for informational interviews?
  • You can conduct informational interviews to learn about the different roles within your organization.
  • You can explore new functions, build your network, and learn what a potential next role could be for you.
Example: During my first internship with the Boeing Company, I was overwhelmed with the size of the organization. My manager and team encouraged me to conduct informational interviews to learn about our organization and company. I met contracts and operational procurement agents, sat down with airplane sales directors, and integrated schedulers who brought engineers and suppliers together to complete parts and jobs on time.
  

Here are 3 Ways I to ask for an informational interview: 
email, LinkedIn, or by referral. 

LinkedIn Example: When I decided to leave my first job out of college, one of the first things I started to do was request informational interviews because I wanted to see if I should make a move into the fashion industry. 

I started scouring LinkedIn with people with the job title “assistant buyer” and sending people messages requesting for an informational interview. I ended up speaking to a woman who was a formal assistant buyer for an apparel company on the east coast. She shared with me the highs and lows of being an assistant buyer and actually recommended to not go into the fashion industry. She said the retail industry was being squeezed and challenged with online and fast fashion retailers. I took her advice and went back into aerospace. 

For email or LinkedIn 
Here is a message you can send to request an informational interview:
Hello (insert name here),

My name is Emmalynn Cortes and I currently work (or attend school at) (insert work or school here). I am reaching out to you today in hopes of scheduling a (15 min -OR- 30 min) informational interview with you. I am interested in learning about your roles and experiences in (insert organization or company name here).

If your schedule permits it, may we please schedule an informational interview on (insert proposed dates here)? 

I look forward to hearing from you soon. Thank you!

Sincerely,                     
Emmalynn Cortes


By referral
If my manager, team, or someone in my network recommends I reach out to someone specific, I usually ask him or her for an introduction email to see if it’s okay to schedule an informational interview.



Example:
I have a friend from college who is in the recruiting industry and is interested in getting into tech recruiting. I let her know that I had two connections; one friend from Facebook who is a computer science engineer and has don’t international recruiting and a friend from Boeing – who is a program manager overseeing internship, diversity, and developmental programs. 

I introduce my friend to these two friends over email. She scheduled informational interviews with them, picked their brains about the type of work they do and the challenges in their field. Because the connection she made during her informational interview with my friend from Facebook, she’s been ask to interview for a role that recently opened up.


Questions to ask at an informational interview: 
You should base your questions around why you scheduled an informational interview.

Some general questions to ask during an informational interview to help break the ice:
-          How long have you been in your role or with the company?
-          What do you enjoy/dislike about your role?
-          What does your next step look like?
-          What’s been your favorite job so far? Least favorite job?

 If you are wanting to just learn about the role or organization, here is what you can ask:
-          Could you please describe your current role? What are your responsibilities?
-          How does your team fit into the organization or company?
-          What initiates your work process? Who are your internal or external customers?
-          What is your role/team’s idea of success?
-          What challenges do you face in your role? What achievements have you experienced in this team?

If you are wanting a job in the team you are having an informational interview with, here is what you can ask:
-          How did you get into your current role and team today?
-          What type of background do most people on the team have? (Master’s degrees, marketing backgrounds, computer science?)
-          What type of experiences should I be looking for to become an eligible candidate if I were to apply for this team?
-          What traits or experiences help make someone successful on this team?



Benefits
  •  By conducting informational interviews, you expand your network.
  • You can share with others your interests and plans for your career.
  •  If future roles open up with a team you’ve been wanting to join, it’s easier to reach back out to those teams since you’ve already expressed interest in joining.
  •  You get a better idea of how a role, team, or organization functions and you can determine if you want to head in that direction or not. 
What over career related topics would you like to see on Emma's Edition?
So far I've covered:

I’d love to hear your suggestions! Thank you for reading!

Love,
Emma

Photos: Holly Phan 

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