How to Informational Interview

Everyone says that you need to have informational interviews to find a job. But how do we do it effectively?

Well, it all starts with sending a connection request. So the first question is probably: “How do I cold-connect on LinkedIn?”

I was about to write something on this topic (and most likely I will still do) but today Adam Broda made a great post 👍🏼 on point so it pretty much wraps up all the amateur mistakes. As long as you are not making those you should be fine.

So, informational interviews.

When it comes to informational interviews there are only 2 objectives that you must have in mind while you are having a phone/Zoom call:

  1. Information extraction
  2. Building a relationship

What do I mean by that?

1. Information extraction.

Your job is to learn as much as possible about the company, their hiring process, who the hiring manager is, what is the culture, and what kind of people get hired.

Before you enter any conversation, do your research!

If I am a company employee and someone is asking me questions the answers for which can be easily found online, you know what it tells me? It tells me that a person was too lazy to do his homework. What does it say about his/her intention to work for my company? Well, it says that this person is not really interested and just wasting my time.

The depth of your questions communicates your depth as a person. Intelligent questions speak for your intelligence. Spend some time and have a list of 10 questions before you jump on a call.

Some examples:

  • How does your day-to-day look like?
  • What are the challenges of your job?
  • What is your opinion on your product/service?
  • If you were in a senior leadership team, what would you change in your company?
  • What the hiring process like?
  • How was your journey with XYZ company?
  • How would you describe the culture?
  • What do you wish you knew before you joined?

Impress the person with the level of your preparation, and they will love you. “Wow! I didn’t even know this about my company!”, that’s the reaction you want to get. You have only one shot at making a first impression. Make it count.

And that is objective number 2.

2. Building a relationship (aka making them fall in love with you).

It is very easy to make people like you. Here are some tips:

  • Come prepared
  • Be presentable (dress nicely, groom up — treat it like you would treat a real job interview)
  • Ask smart questions
  • Be professional
  • Suggest a phone call instead of a video call. Zoom fatigue is real. They will appreciate you suggesting it.
  • Ask for an odd number of min of their time. Let’s say 19 min. Both the number and the request seem unusual, so they will keep you in the back of their mind. But if you ask for 19 min be punctual — call on time and finish the call on time (unless the other person is clearly letting you know that he enjoys the conversation and doesn’t mind staying a bit longer).
  • Listen actively, just keep silent and take notes (do not interrupt with “mhm” or “yeah” sounds — silence is the best way to signal that you are paying attention).
  • Don’t make it about the job search only. Make sure that you spend 5–7 min at the end connecting like a human being. Say smth like: “Ok, I appreciate your time. I wanted to ask you a personal question — why do you love working for XYZ company?” (Well, it is a trick. It is not very personal to get a rejection, but it personal enough in the sense that it makes them think deeply. Or, a question like: “If you don’t mind me asking, what is next for you? How do you see your career path unfolding?” Again, this is what I do, because I like making people stare inside their souls for a moment but if you don’t feel comfortable with those types of questions don’t go too heavy — make it YOU. Think what questions would help YOU to make a friend and connect on a real human level.
  • Don’t ask for referrals. The person barely knows you. However, you can always ask for introductions. Example: “I was wondering if you know someone you think I should talk to.” Or, “Could you recommend me some resources? Maybe you know some pods, groups, or events where I could network and connect with peers?”
  • Don’t put them on a pedestal. They are not higher or better than you just because at this point in time they happen to be employed and you are not. You will be there, in the same position when someone else will reach out to you for help. And at that time, it will be your job to have an honest conversation not coming from a place of ego or superiority. Be humble, be respectful, be coachable but at the same time be confident, and remember that you have value to offer that company at all times.

So that is the secret sauce really — find your balance between extracting maximum valuable information and making them think, “oh wow, he/she is such a nice guy/girl. I’d love to help him out. He’d be a nice person to work with.” You see, if you make them envision you as a potential co-worker, consider it a huge success.

Honestly, if all the steps are done correctly (read: if they like you) most likely they will suggest further help themselves — either in the form of additional resources or additional introductions. You might hear the desired response, “Hey, you know what, let me connect you with A. I think you will benefit from that conversation,” or, “let me email you a couple of resources that I think will be helpful.” If not, again, nudge them — ask respectfully if they have any recommendation for the next step to take.

Informational interviews are not super sophisticated. You don’t have to approach them as real job interviews, think of them as making new friends. Speak less, listen more. Learn to ask questions that would entice the other person into speaking about what is important for them. Give them space and show that you are an active listener, and I promise you by the end of that call they will think, “oh he/she is such a nice conversation partner,” and they will think so while they did all the talking. Remember, the one who is asking questions is the one who is leading the conversation. Always.

Hope this dots some i’s on the informational interview side of things. Feel free to share your thoughts on how was your experience with those and how did they serve you in your job hunting journey.


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