Informational Interview
February 26, 2013 7:45 PM   Subscribe

What is the best way to approach somebody in a career field about the possibility of arranging an informational interview? This is assuming you do not have a connection to a person.
posted by dfc5656 to Work & Money (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You write them an email asking for an informational interview, with a promise to follow-up by telephone.

You don't need to have a connection to the person.

Make sure you spell out what the intent of the conversation is, and that it will only be for twenty minutes or so.

When phoning as a followup (in case the person doesn't get back to you), email on a Monday, followup on Wednesday morning. Leave a short message. If this doesn't work, send another email the following Monday, and if there is no response, move on.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:50 PM on February 26, 2013

You don't say what field you're investigating, but I've had pretty good luck just cold calling people and asking if I can pick their brains for a few minutes. They usually say yes. Of course, the places I was calling weren't specifically places where I was hoping to get hired someday, the calls were more about learning general things about the field... And maybe that's not what you're looking for. And certain fields will probably be much less open to this sort of call. I don't imagine that many doctors, for example, would be willing to take 10 minutes out of their day to talk about their profession with some random person who called them.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 8:14 PM on February 26, 2013

I get emails asking for informational interviews - mostly because they want to get into the company where I work. I'll usually do it over the phone unless there's some personal connection - same college, professional association, etc. Then I'll do it in person.

Email and ask.
posted by 26.2 at 8:34 PM on February 26, 2013

I have done this successfully through cold calls or showing up in person.

Paramedic with the fire department: Called a fire station basically at random and asked the person who answered if I could do a ride-along with their paramedics. They said yes and I did and got to ask all the questions I wanted and see what the job was like.

Nursing: Walked cold into hospitals and found the manager. Said, basically, "I know you're very busy, but I wonder if you could answer a few quick questions..." This worked well. (This is a little different from an informational interview, but it would have worked for that purpose too. What I really wanted was to feel out whether they were hiring and get my face in front of a real person who did hiring, so I just asked a lot of more open ended questions. Got a lot of good advice about how to get a job that way, and also got a job that way.)

Be brave! Just ask!
posted by latkes at 12:28 AM on February 27, 2013

Assuming you don’t have an in with the organization, I would recommend contacting HR via email. I DO NOT recommend using the term “informational interview” because many people are unfamiliar with that phrase. Instead, I suggest that you explain you are interested in X field and that you would like to talk to someone in the company who is doing work related to X. I would also recommend either summarizing what you want to ask about or even providing a list of questions you are interested in asking. This will help the HR person get you to the right employee, and I imagine it increases the likelihood that your questions will actually get passed along and answered.
posted by emilynoa at 6:50 AM on February 27, 2013

Assuming you haven't already tried it:

I would start with your existing network. Reach out to everyone you can think of and let them know you are looking for someone who has experience in X field to discuss Y issues with. Let them know that this is not an interview request.

Go on linkedin and do searches for company names and keywords related to your field of interest. You may find that you know someone who knows someone who works for X Co as a Y specialist: you can ask for an introduction and go from there.
posted by bunderful at 7:57 AM on February 27, 2013

However you decide to make the initial contact, be prepared so that you can be flexible with the next step: if they agree to do a phone interview, be prepared right then with your questions just in case you happened to call at the exact perfect time, but also be prepared to suggest another specific time, and be prepared to accept if they suggest a time to call (you can cancel your haircut appointment if that's the only time they can meet, but you don't need to tell them that). For a physical interview, be prepared with the name of the coffee shop nearest their office (it's likely in the lobby of their own building, not the Starbucks down the street, but that's ok too, as long as you know about it), and a nearby casual restaurant in case they agree to a whole lunch hour.

Imagine all the possible responses that you might get to your cold request, and be prepared so you aren't hemming and hawing about where/when. And always have your questions pre-ready in case it happens quickly.
posted by CathyG at 8:57 AM on February 27, 2013

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