Getting information from an informational interview
October 5, 2007 5:42 AM   Subscribe

I've set up some informational interviews. Now, what do I ask the people so I don't seem like a dumbass?

I'm an attorney looking to move to a larger metro area. I've contacted a few alums for advice. I know that I want information on hiring trends, opportunities they may know about, and other advice that can help me get a handle on where to apply and who else to talk to.

Problem is, I'm new to this networking thing. Should I just ask these questions straight out, or do I need to couch them around small talk and other banter?

It's a nerve wracking process, but I need to do it. It's just that these people have given me some of their time. I don't want to waste it.

Any tips from people who have networked their way to jobs or networked, period, in the past would be welcome.
posted by reenum to Work & Money (5 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You do need to warm up with small talk.

If you know them personally, ask them what they have been up to since school, and if they've heard from former classmate X.

If you don't know them, maybe ask them if they've been back to campus, talk about how OMG wasn't professor Y such a drag, etc. Talk about your shared school experience first, then move on to your questions.

The purpose of networking is to build relationships. Relationships are formed based on shared experiences. You must build a foundation of shared experience. Also, you both need a chance to warm up to each other a bit before pumping for information. It shows that you are civilized and not stand-offish. Don't worry, it is not a waste of time.
posted by crazycanuck at 6:35 AM on October 5, 2007

Most people are happy to talk about themselves, so you can ask people about their jobs, what their work day is like, their colleagues etc as a way of breaking the ice. But if they have agreed to see you they are likely expecting you to ask them the sort of questions you want answered, what firms are growing, does anyone specialize in the exact area of law you are most interested in.

And "do you know anyone else I can talk to?" is a pretty standard question.
posted by shothotbot at 6:41 AM on October 5, 2007

Best answer: Sometimes it helps to have a mental agenda so you don't feel you're wasting time. Assuming you've got at 30 minute block of time.

5 Minutes - Intros, warm-up chatting.
10 Minutes - What makes law practice in that locality unique? Business practices? Particular judges? Difficulty in starting/joining a practice? Important profession associations you should join?
10 Minutes - Job hunting questions - where, what firm, referrals.
5 Minutes - Thanks and ask if you can call again for more advice.

The other thing is in the start of the interview confirm how much time the person has available. A simple, "I don't want to waste our time, do you still have 30 minutes?" will be appreciated.

Good luck!
posted by 26.2 at 6:48 AM on October 5, 2007

Response by poster: These are all phone interviews, since I live in the Midwest and am looking to move to one of the coasts.

So, I guess the secretaries won't have as much interaction, other than to patch me through.

I know I need to ask them about the market and the hiring climate. What are some good questions you guys have used in the past?
posted by reenum at 7:53 AM on October 5, 2007

Best answer: I'm a tax lawyer in NYC working for a relatively big firm. I'm not sure about informational interview techniques, but might be able to give you some information and am always happy to network. Email's in my profile if you want to talk.
posted by lorrer at 10:56 AM on October 5, 2007

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