Do’s and Don’ts of Effective Informational Interviewing

Informational interviewing is a great strategy for professionals at various points in their careers.

It is an effective way to network with people at specific organizations of interest, whether you’re just out of college or a seasoned professional. It is also wonderful when you want to explore a new career path or are considering a professional transition. No matter what, it is always a good way to learn more about a position and about yourself.

While they can be extremely effective, there are many mistakes people make along the way when scheduling and conducting informational interviews. These pitfalls can lead to making a poor impression that can tarnish your professional brand. To be respectful and get the most out of your informational interviews, let these do’s and don’ts from the GetFive career coaches guide you.

Don’t be afraid to ask. It all starts with a simple request, often through email or LinkedIn messaging.

Do say why. This person should know exactly why you want to meet with them. Talk about their career history and job, as well as how it relates to you achieving your goals.

Don’t be too casual. When in doubt, address the person formally, using Mr., Ms., Dr., etc. as appropriate. Never start “Dear first name.”

Do be patient. Pestering them for a response is annoying. If a week or more has passed, write a brief follow-up message. If you still get no response, assume the person is not interested in meeting and leave them alone.

Don’t just leave your number. Be specific and propose times you’d like to meet for coffee or set up a phone call, noting that if these don’t work, you can be flexible. Make it easy for them to say yes or no.

Do your research: Find out what you can about the person online and prepare thoughtful questions that can help guide your conversation.

Don’t make it all about you. It’s important to introduce yourself, but keep that part of the conversation short. The bulk of the interview should focus on your questions and the insight the contact can provide. Remember to be an active and conscientious listener.

Do respect their time. This person is a working professional who made time in their busy day for you. Work around their schedule, be flexible, and try to get what you need in a half hour, unless they ask you specifically to meet for longer.

Don’t ask for a job. This is an informational interview, not a job interview. It’s also not likely to be with HR or a hiring manger (unless that is the career path you’re exploring). This person does not have the ability to give you a job, and asking is rude.

Do follow up with a thank you — a note of gratitude for their time and career insight is always appreciated after an informational interview.

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