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How to Conduct an Information Interview

When you are trying to break into a new industry, the best place to get information is from people who are working in the field.  They can tell you what's really happening in the industry and they can give you tips on how to position yourself as an attractive candidate when you are looking for a job.  An information interview is a formal conversation initiated by the job seeker with the objective of gaining insight and guidance.  Information Interviews are an effective strategy for getting information and for expanding your professional network.  However, many job seekers don't use this strategy because it makes them feel uncomfortable.  Here are some tips that will help you conduct information interviews comfortably and effectively:   

Use your network.  The first step is to find someone to interview.  Talk to the people in your network and ask them if they know of anyone in your industry who might be willing to talk to you.  People will be more willing to help you if they are connected to you in some way.  If you can't find anyone in your network to interview, check out the alumni groups for your school on LinkedIn and Facebook.  If your target industry has a professional association, contact them and ask if one of their members might be willing to meet with you.        

Be well prepared.  The value that you get out of this meeting will largely depend on how well prepared you are for it.  Be ready to deliver your professional introduction so that your contact will have an understanding of your background and your skills.  Be clear that your objective for this meeting is to pick their brain about the industry so that they know you aren't expecting a job offer.  Have some well thought out questions ready.  Use this opportunity to get information that would otherwise be difficult for you to access.    

Be professional.  The most valuable commodity that someone can give you is their time.  Show them that you appreciate the meeting.  Dress and behave as professionally as you would for a job interview.  Pay attention to what they are saying and don't let the meeting drag on for too long.  Most importantly, say thank you and let them know that you appreciate their insight and advice.        

Act on any leads that they provide to you.  Your contact may tell you about opportunities or even put you in touch with people in their network.  Follow up on all of these leads.  If you don't follow up on the leads that they give you, it's unlikely that they'll offer to help you further.  Also, you never know where you are going to find an amazing opportunity.     

Follow up.  Now that you've had the opportunity to meet this person, you can make them a part of your professional network.  Start by sending them a thank you note and adding them as a professional connection on LinkedIn.  Follow up with them on a regular basis and let them know if you made use of any of their advice.  As your professional network grows, more doors will be open to you.  

Information interviews may make you feel a little awkward but they are worth it.  By getting out there and talking to people, you can find out about opportunities that you had never even considered.

(Written by Karen Bivand, Image by rawpixel.com)