What if you lost your job today and needed a new job in a week? Could you do it?
What if you just wanted some advice for a tough career decision? Is there someone you could ask?
Or what if you wanted to make a big career change, like switching industries? Is there anyone you could call for help?
The secret to solving all of these challenges is the same: informational interviews. Today, I’ll show you how to conduct excellent info interviews, including the exact questions you’ll want to ask.
At a high-level, here’s how an informational interview works:
- You find someone doing the job you’re interested in
- Invite them out to coffee or ask them to chat over the phone
- Ask key questions about the job and gather insider information
- Then, use what you learned to make an informed decision about your career
It sounds so simple, but it can have a profound effect on how you get a job. Rather than guessing and checking, this is how you guarantee a job is right for you — before committing to do it for the rest of your life.
Info interviews are even more powerful if you’re proactive:
Most people just keep wishing for a different job. Or worse, they just aimlessly apply to new jobs and take the first offer they get…even if it’s down the wrong career path. With informational interviews, you can build a network of professional friends BEFORE you need them, so when you need advice or a new job, you already have people you can turn to for help.
Let me show you how to master this powerful job search tool.
How to set up and virtually guarantee an interview’s success
Most people cringe at the word “interview.” It conjures up images of being put on the spot and asked tough questions.
While that is how a lot of job interviews go, that’s not how informational interviews work.
In fact, with informational interviews, you barely have to say a word. That’s one of the reasons why I love them so much. There’s no pressure to talk a lot or have all the answers, and they’re tough to screw up.
All you have to do is reach out to the person you want to meet with a concise email. (Here are word-for-word email scripts you can use to set up a meeting.)
During the interview, there are a couple of key pointers to make the meeting a success:
1. ASK INSIGHTFUL QUESTIONS — Don’t waste someone’s time with questions you could easily answer with Google. It’s disrespectful and hurts your chances of making a connection with the person.
Good question: “I noticed you did XYZ. It’s interesting because [INSERT NAME OF VIP] took a different approach and did ABC. What was your thinking behind that decision?”
Bad question: “I’m so unhappy at my job. I think I’d like to do what you’re doing. What does someone in your position do again?”
In this video, I put together a few more examples of insightful questions to keep the conversation going:
2. SPEND 90% OF THE INTERVIEW LISTENING — Yes, most of the time, they’ll be talking — NOT you. Only interject with insightful comments every once in a while to show that you’ve done your homework.
Remember, you’re learning from them, and the best way to do that is to LISTEN. As for the other 10% of the time, you should spend that telling them what you’re working on and asking for specific advice. This approach is often so effective that the person you’re meeting with will introduce you to even more people.
Alright, now that you’ve set up the interview, you’ve done your research, and you have your amazing questions to ask — you’re almost there.
Don’t blow the whole thing by making one of these mistakes.
Avoid these four interview mistakes
Imagine you’re the CEO of a local tech company. Your schedule is packed. Tons of people are vying for your attention every day.
Suddenly, some random stranger emails you asking to meet for coffee. Their email is really good (using the above script). You can tell the person has done their research. And since they seem sincere and interested, you decide to take a chance and say “yes” to their invite.
You block off 30 min of your already crammed schedule to meet them.
When you get together, you exchange pleasantries…then the chat quickly derails. The person you’re meeting with starts rambling, talking all about himself, and not asking you insightful questions. You sit there watching the clock thinking, “what a waste of time.”
Believe it or not this happens a lot.
People spend so much time trying to get the informational interview, then blow it when they meet the person in real life.
Here’s a DO and DON’T guide for the four most common informational interview mistakes to avoid.
1. ASKING QUESTIONS THAT DON’T MATTER
Do: Ask questions that are open-ended and get the person talking. For example, if they are the CEO of a startup, ask them what they’ve learned from previous start-ups that are making a difference in the success of their current start-up. Make your time with them count.
2. RAMBLING AND GETTING SIDETRACKED
Don’t: Bore them with insignificant details like what type of food your cat likes or where you go for sushi.
Do: Keep things short and to the point. The people you’re interviewing are busy and are doing you a favor. Be courteous and stay on point. Know how much time they have to give and honor that.
3. LET YOUR EGO GET IN THE WAY
Don’t: Don’t talk about yourself too much (remember the 90/10 rule?). The point of the interview isn’t to prove your brilliance; it’s to learn from them.
Do: Ask them about their interests, their history, their plans. Make it ALL about them.
4. NEVER FOLLOW UP
Don’t: Suck them for helpful information and then disappear. This is rude and will make them not want to help you in the future.
Do: Send a written thank you note to express your gratitude. Then use my Closing the Loop Technique to follow up with them on how you’re using what you learned from them. Showing that you’re taking action on their advice is the best “Thank you!” you can give.
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