How to Conduct a Good Informational Interview

Earlier this week, I was blogging about why you should do informational interviews, but what if you don’t know how to go about it? Over the past two years, I’ve gone on about 14 or 15 informational interviews. While I can’t say I’m an expert, I do have a bit of an idea of what has worked for me in the past:

Be Flexible About Location

Offer to let your person pick the spot you two meet. It helps make the interview more convenient for him/her, and if it’s closer to his/her work, you might increase the length of the interview by cutting his/her commute time.

Dress up.

You don’t have to show up in a business suit, but when you look nice, you give the impression of being a professional rather than just another college student.

Pay for the Coffee

I get the starving-college-kid mentality, but seriously, it won’t break your budget to buy someone else’s coffee for once. The person you’re interviewing is doing you a favor, taking time out of his/her busy day to chat with you. This is just a small way to thank him/her. (And if you’re feeling really tight on cash, then just order a small tea for yourself.)

Research the Person

Scope out the person beforehand. LinkedIn profiles are there for a reason. When you do your homework, you can then ask deeper questions than just “So, what other jobs have you done?”

Bonus Tip: Sometimes you’ll find an interesting tidbit about the person during your research that can make a great ice breaker. For example, once I was interviewing a technical editor who was a bassist. Since I’m a jazz trombonist, we were able to wind up the last 15 minutes of the interview talking about music. It made for a much stronger connection, and he and I still chat on occasion.

Take Notes

You’d be crazy not to do this. Take notes, and save them afterwards. I bring my padfolio to take notes in during the interview, and then once I get home, I type them up and make sure they’re in bullet points or are at least semi-coherent. This can feel rather tedious, but it’s incredibly helpful if you need to reference the interview a year later.

Write a Thank You Note

This not only makes you more memorable, but it’s also just common decency.

Bonus Tip: Write this note as soon as you can after the interview. (I usually try to send them out the same evening.) You’ll have the information fresh in your mind and will be better able to recall the specifics of what you talked about.

Do you have any tips for informational interviews?

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