Six Tips for an Effective Informational Interview

By: Jaime Hiraishi | April 27, 2012

In such a competitive economy, it's important to make the most of your conversations and connections to stand out in today's job market and create your own impact career path. So how do you turn the conventional informational interview into a true discussion? Here are six best practices:

1. Be specific

It may sound counterintuitive to job seekers, but being open to any and all opportunities won't increase your chances of finding something great. In fact, the more specific you are about what you want, the easier it will be for others to help. For example, don't say you're interested in sustainability roles. Say you want to help large companies reduce waste by improving packaging design. 

2. Be prepared

To make a good impression, it's important to prepare. Do some background research on who you're talking with, establish a target for the conversation, and develop a list of questions. 

3. Be prompt

Showing up a few minutes early for your in-person conversation gives you time to collect your thoughts and make a good first impression. If you're connecting by phone or video chat, calling in on time from a quiet room without interruptions or distractions is a must. You should try to use a landline, but if you have to use a cell phone, just make sure you have good reception. During your conversation, keep an eye on the clock and make sure not to run over your allotted time.

4. Be respectful

If you feel comfortable (and if he or she hasn't specified otherwise), ask for introductions to other folks who might be helpful. If you've made a great impression, chances are they'll offer up introductions without being asked. 

5. Be reciprocal

He or she is offering valuable time and insight, but this isn't a one-sided relationship. How can you be a resource in return? Are you going to a relevant event? Have you read an article applicable to your conversation? Making yourself useful in whatever small way you can will make him or her more inclined to support you. 

6. Be reflective

Take a few minutes to reflect on the advice and information you've received in your conversation. Revisit your career goals, consider what new steps you can take to get closer to them, and make revisions based on the information and advice you received during each conversation.

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