How to Ask for an Informational Interview

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Understanding how to ask for an informational interview is essentially asking for a favor -- and asking a stranger for a favor is hard. Yes, it’s a daunting task, but the rewards it can yield are incredible. Learning how to make an informational interview request isn’t that complicated. In most cases, it involves little more than effective formatting, following appropriate etiquette, differentiating yourself from others, and coming off as genuine.

Asking for an informational interview also involves targeting the right person. Look for alumni from your school or university, those you’ve met at networking events previously, or people whose work you admire in your community or industry of choice. Having a genuine reason for contacting a person or something in common can help you build a bond and increase your odds of that person responding to your request.

Here are some helpful tips to follow for snagging an informational interview that can unlock a door to more meaningful business connections and eventually set off down the path to a fulfilling career after college (by the way, check out our career planning quiz to find the career path that is right for you).

How to Write an Email Requesting an Informational Interview

Once you know who you’d like to reach out to for an informational interview, introduce yourself to him or her via email or LinkedIn message. From your name and occupation to your geographic location, give the individual a quick rundown of who you are. Make sure the email requesting the informal interview is not too lengthy as you want to be respectful of his or her time, but give them a sense of why you’re reaching out to the person and how they can help.

Once properly introduced, make it clear what it is you’re after and explicitly state what it is you’d like to talk about. By the end of the informational interview email, the reader should have no questions, which leaves them without a reason to say no to your request.

Keep in mind: most people on the receiving end of an email may wonder “why is this person writing to me specifically?” So, when requesting an informal interview through email, you need to answer that question. Beyond stating the obvious, your response can serve as an emotional hook to get your reader invested in your request. You might mention how your aspirations and interests closely align with their experience. Be sure to close with personable, sincere remarks and thank them for their time.

Stumped for ideas on how to ask for an interview in an email? Check out our email template for requesting an informational interview below:

Informational Interview Email Template

Dear John,

My name is Amy, I’m an illustration freelancer from Seattle. I’ve been a long-time devotee of new digital media and was fascinated by your latest project, “The Art Example.”

I’m reaching out to you because I noticed you’ve worked at the three of the top media firms in the nation and I’d love to have a quick informal interview with you. Would you have a moment to talk about the emerging trends within 3D printing or offer some advice on getting started in the industry? 

Would you be willing to meet for a short talk -- in person, on the phone, or via Skype, depending on what’s most convenient for you? I’m sure you’re extremely busy, but even 15 minutes would be deeply appreciated.

Thank you,

Amy Jones

The Dos and Don’ts of Following Up on Your Interview Request

If you get approval to set a date, follow-up within the next day. Your contact’s time is valuable and they may be booked for other meetings or work-related travel. Snapping up time on his or her calendar helps ensure you get some face time.

After you’ve set a date, definitely don’t try to reschedule or cancel at the last minute. Even if you get approval, it’s unprofessional behavior that reflects poorly on you. Once you’ve had the informal interview, be sure to follow up soon afterwards to thank the individual for his or her time via email or a handwritten note. People remember professionalism and courtesy.

Seeming eager when asking for an informational interview is great because it shows a level of authenticity in your interests, which is a hallmark of a fun conversation and a meaningful exchange. However, seeming desperate has the opposite effect, which can quickly be the case with only a few minor faux pas, like attaching an unsolicited resume.

Keep in mind that sometimes busy people forget things. If you get initial approval for an informational interview through email, but communication goes dark, try following up after a week. As long as you wait at least a week and do your best not to pester them for an interview, many people will appreciate the reminder or admire your persistence.

Be Authentic When Asking for an Informal Interview

The same way that most people can tell when someone is reading off of a teleprompter or that they’ve just been sent a form letter, business professionals can often sniff out when people are being disingenuous. Honest, thoughtful communication is always appreciated, no matter who you speak to.

One way to signal authenticity is by doing your homework. As mentioned previously, take the time to research the person you’re contacting to ask for an informal interview and see if you have anything in common. One way to do this is by researching the individual on LinkedIn or other social media profiles to gain an understanding of his or her interests.

Similarly, be mindful of your etiquette -- business and personal etiquette! Don’t approach the interaction with the assumption that you’ll get a chance to meet them. Whether you have a chance to speak with them or not, always show appreciation for their time. A little thoughtfulness can go a long way.

Benefits of Informational Interviews

Hiring people can be an exhausting and tedious process. That’s why some organizations are willing to pay a hiring service to do the work for them. However, hiring a new candidate for a job opening can be made a lot easier by combing through your list of professional contacts or recommendations from a trusted friend or colleague.

With this in mind, conducting an informational interview can be a goldmine of industry-specific information and career advice that may also land you on the list of prospects for a position with a company. Making a good impression is important.

An informal interview can be one of the most valuable forms of networking. Knowing the right people can make drastic difference in your career growth, but unless you’re terribly lucky, you’re probably not going to bump into those people at the gym. Actively seeking out people to interview can help you be proactive about expanding your career opportunities and growing your professional network. .

At the end of the day, whether you’re tactful or not, you’re still asking for a favor from a stranger. Even with an excellently prepared informational interview request email, you can expect to face rejection at least half of the time. Don’t be discouraged. Landing an informational interview can take time. Stick with it and keep knocking on those doors until one opens. When it does, you’ll be more than pleased with the results! In the meantime, be sure to check out our Career Resources for a few more tools to keep your career moving forward.