As job search counselors and career advisors will be quick to tell you, informational interviews can vastly shorten the path to your next job offer. But in order to turn a ten minute meeting into a promising connection or a profitable lesson, you’ll have to follow a few simple guidelines. And you’ll need to make sure the session maximizes the value of your contact’s time, not just your own. Keep these tips in mind.

Schedule as Many Sessions as You Can

Informational interviews don’t technically take anything away from your chosen contact (except time). Your interviewees aren’t obligated to prepare for the meeting, or choose the venue, or steer the conversation, or even pay for any meals or coffee involved—ideally, you’ll be the one picking up the tab. So unless they’re too busy, there’s really no reason for a potential contact to turn you down. With that in mind, be bold about asking for meetings. Pack in as many as your schedule can handle.

Make the Process Easy for your Contact

Plan ahead. Think about how your contact will reach the venue (including parking) and if possible, schedule the meeting in her own office so she doesn’t even have to go anywhere. Before you meet, compose a list of questions that the person will find interesting. Make sure the questions have value for you as well. Try to ask for advice, not direct assistance with your job search.

Be Specific

Ask questions that are open ended, but specific. For example, ask your contact how he first launched a career in this field. Ask what skills and what personal traits you’ll need in order to find success in the business. And ask for any tips he can give you about navigating the systems and bureaucracies that stand between you and your goals.

Keep the Meeting Short

Above all, respect your interviewee by respecting her time. If she seems deeply invested in what she’s saying, don’t cut her short in order to end the meeting (of course). But otherwise, if you told her you would only need fifteen or twenty minutes, keep one eye on the clock. When the final moment arrives, thank her for the session and reiterate a few of the most important things you’ve learned. Let her know that you’ll keep her updated in the progress of your search and gracefully find the exit. Before the end of the day, place a handwritten thank you note in the mail that reiterates similar themes.

For more on how to request an informational interview and follow through with style and flair, contact the job search team at Expert.


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