How to Ask for an Informational Interview (and Get a “Yes”)

 

Author: Elliott Bell

The informational interview is the secret tool everyone should have in their back pocket. A hybrid of an amazing networking opportunity, an info-session, and a job interview, it can give anyone looking for a job or pondering a career change insider scoop (not to mention a much-needed morale boost).

The problem is that these opportunities aren’t advertised anywhere, typically require a lot of work on your end to make happen, and, in most cases, mean you have to convince strangers why they should take time out of their day to help you.

But with the right approach, you can land these interviews (and maybe even a job). Here’s my advice for finding and approaching potential contacts and getting them to say yes—every time.

Find the Right People

This may seem obvious, but choosing who you approach can make all the difference in hearing back.

Start by making a list of companies you’d love to work at and of job titles or positions you’d be interested in. While people who fit on either list are good, someone who works for your dream company and has your dream role is where you’ll get the most bang for your buck.

That said, it’s important to consider what the person does at the company and the size of the company—you want to target people who are in an aspirational role, but who aren't so high up that they won’t have time to meet with you. I may want to talk to the CMO of a major company, but I can probably learn more talking to the marketing director of a smaller company. Also, look for people you have some sort of connection with—if someone went to your college or has a shared connection, he or she will be more likely to want to meet with you.

I prefer using LinkedIn to find people, but then reaching out over email—it’s easier for people to respond to, and you won’t look like LinkedIn spam. (Try our tips for tracking down someone’s email address.)

Perfect the Art of the Ask

Any good cold email has two things: a clear message (why you're reaching out), and an easy-to-understand ask (the action you want the recipient to take). Here’s a simple formula that checks both boxes and that will work most of the time:

1. Start by Asking for Help

This sounds obvious (and, OK, a little weird), but it’s a proven fact that people love to feel like they are helping others. So, if you literally start by saying, “I’d love your help,” or “I hope you’ll be able to help me out...” your chances of getting a positive response go up significantly.

2. Be Clear

Ask for something very specific, and make it as easy as possible for the person to say yes. Saying, “I'd love to know more about what you do and how you got your start” is okay, but doesn't tell someone how much of his or her time you’re after or what you’re really suggesting. Instead, try something like, “I'd love to take you to a quick coffee so I can hear your perspective on this industry and what it's like to work at your company. I’ll actually be in your area next week and would be happy to meet you wherever is convenient for you.”

3. Have a Hook

A great way to increase your chance of landing the interview is to demonstrate why you really want to meet with this person. Do you admire her career path? Do you think the work he’s currently doing at company X stands out as the best? Maybe you have a shared connection and think she would be a great voice of wisdom. Don’t be afraid to share why you are specifically reaching out to this person. The more personalized your ask feels, the greater chance of success you’ll have.

4. Be Very Considerate

Remember that, in asking for an informational interview, you’re literally asking someone to put his or her work on hold to help you. Show your contact you understand this by saying, “I can only imagine how busy you must get, so even 15-20 minutes would be so appreciated.”

5. Make Sure You Don't Seem Like You’re Looking for a Job (Even if You Are)

If you sound like you’re really just looking for a job, there’s a good chance this person will push you to HR or the company’s career page. So be sure to make it clear that you really want to talk to this person to learn about his or her career history and perspective on the job or industry. After you meet and make a great impression is when you can mention the job hunt.

Follow Up, and Be Pleasantly Persistent

If you don’t hear back right away, don’t worry. People are busy, and sometimes these things slip to the bottom of a person’s to-do list. The key is to not just give up. If you haven’t heard back in a week, reply to your first email and politely ask if your contact has had a chance to read your previous email. Also, use this opportunity to reiterate how much it would mean to you to have 15 minutes to learn from him or her.

I personally believe that it’s your responsibility to continue to follow up (as nicely as possible) every couple of weeks until you’ve heard an answer one way or the other. Some would say that after one or two tries, you may run the risk of upsetting the person—but I say that sometimes, persistence pays off. At the end of the day, it’s really up to you and your personal comfort level.

That said, once you shoot off a few emails, you’ll see that most people are happy to help (hey, people love talking about themselves). The next step? Getting ready for the meeting. Read on for our best advice on acing the informational interview.

Photo of courtesy of Unsplash .

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Pleasantly Persistent: 5 Rules for Effectively Following Up

Author: Elliott Bell

I had a conversation with a friend the other day about his job search that went something like this:

Friend: I wrote to him last week and still haven’t heard back. It’s so frustrating.

Me: Why not follow up and check in?

Friend: I don’t want to be annoying.

I understand the fear. No one wants to be annoying or bothersome to a professional contact, especially when you want a job, meeting, sales dollars, or something else very important from that person.

But here’s the rub. The average person can get a few hundred emails a day. That makes it pretty tough to respond to all of them, and things naturally fall to the bottom of the list. If you don’t get a response, it doesn’t mean that someone’s ignoring you—it just may mean that he or she is too busy.

So, to the question: Should you follow up? Absolutely. In fact, it’s your job. And how often should you do so? My philosophy is: As many times as it takes. The important thing is to do it the right way. Or, as I call it, to be “pleasantly persistent.”

Here are a few tips on how to (nicely) follow up with that hiring manager, sales lead, or VIP—and get the answer you’re looking for.

Rule 1: Be Overly Polite and Humble

That seems obvious enough, but a lot of people take it personally when they don’t hear back from someone right away. Resist the urge to get upset or mad, and never take your feelings out in an email, saying something like, “You haven’t responded yet,” or “You ignored my first email.” Just maintain an extremely polite tone throughout the entire email thread. Showing that you’re friendly and that you understand how busy your contact is is a good way to keep him or her interested (and not mad).

Rule 2: Persistent Doesn’t Mean Every Day

Sending a follow-up email every day doesn’t show you have gumption or passion, it shows you don’t respect a person’s time. The general rule of thumb is to give at least a week before following up. Any sooner, and it might come off as pushy; let too much time pass, and you risk the other person not having any clue who you are. I typically start off with an email every week, and then switch to every couple of weeks.

Rule 3: Directly Ask if You Should Stop Reaching Out

If you’ve followed up a few times and still haven’t heard back, it’s worth directly asking if you should stop following up. After all, you don’t want to waste your time, either. I’ll sometimes say, “I know how busy you are and completely understand if you just haven’t had the time to reach back out. But I don’t want to bombard you with emails if you’re not interested. Just let me know if you’d prefer I stop following up.” Most people respect honesty and don’t want to waste someone’s time, and they’ll at least let you know one way or another.

Rule 4: Stand Out in a Good Way

I once had someone trying to sell me something that I was remotely interested in but that was nowhere near the top of my priority list. Every week, he’d send me a new email quickly re-explaining what he sold—as well as a suggestion for good pizza to try around the city. Why? He had seen a blog post where I mentioned I’d eat pizza 24/7 if I could, and cleverly worked that into his follow-up. It made him stand out in a good way, and as a result, we eventually had a call .

The lesson: If done well, a little creativity in your follow up can go a long way. If you’re following up about a job, try Alexandra Franzen’s tips for giving the hiring manager something he or she can’t resist.

Rule 5: Change it Up

If you’re not connecting with someone, try changing it up. In other words, don’t send the exact same email at the same time of day on the same day of week. Getting people to respond can sometimes just come down to catching them at the right time. If you always follow up in the morning, maybe try later in the day a few times.

Remember: If someone does ask you to stop following up, stop following up. But until you hear that, it’s your responsibility to keep trying.

Photo of woman emailing courtesy of Shutterstock.

To read the original article, click here.

 


Attention Job Seekers: Every Recruiter Can't Find Every Candidate a Job

 

Author: Kristina Evans

As a job seeker, it can be difficult to find your own footing in your personal job search.  Oftentimes, turning to a recruiter can be beneficial in honing in on the right job opportunities, brushing up your interviewing skills and resume feel, and taking some of the hard work off of your plate while searching for your next gig.

However, it is important to be mindful that every recruiter you connect with will not be able to help you find the right job, or give you the advice you are seeking to have solid footing in your respective industry.

And, please do not get confused with my message here.

I am not saying that to be rude.

I am saying that because most recruiters are limited in their own regard.  They have certain industries they recruit for, certain niches, and to be quite honest - aren't necessarily the right person to help you find your dream job.

For example, if I am a Software Engineer searching for a new position, I would not reach out to a recruiter in the Accounting & Finance industry that is specifically finding placements for entry level Accountants and Financial Analysts, and expect solid help.  This just would not make sense.

Chances are that this recruiter will not be able to help you.

That doesn't mean the recruiter won't know someone who can help you, but be sure to gauge your reach out to this person accordingly with a message like the following:

Hi Mrs. Recruiter Not in My Industry,

Thank you for the recent connection.  

After reviewing your profile here on LinkedIn, I understand that you are a trusted and well-established recruiter in the Accounting and Finance space.  Although I am a Software Engineer searching for my next opportunity, I understand that you do not recruit in this space.  However, please let me know if you have a recommendation or two for a recruiter specifically in the technology space that can possibly be of assistance to me in my quest for finding my next career opportunity.

Your assistance is not expected, but I would greatly appreciate any information or resources you can provide to me.

Best,

Mr. Candidate 

I can't speak on behalf of every recruiter.

Personally, I would love to help each and every person that comes my way.  I have a big heart, and I empathize with those looking for an immediate job opportunity.

However, it just is not feasible.  

I will always work to help those that are relevant to my industry and my niche, and ensure those that are not relevant are provided with any resources or information that may be of help.

So, as a job seeker, do continue to reach out to recruiters, but try to be mindful of what type of recruiter you are reaching out to - including their industry, their location and geographical span, their expertise, and their niche.

Don't be afraid to reach out, but...

Just tailor your message accordingly so you are increasing the likelihood that the recruiter will respond and will be able to pass on information that will be beneficial to you, such as:

A referral to another recruiter in your industry.

A pointer or two about your resume in general.

Links to information or resources that may help you in your search [i.e. niche specific job boards, job board apps, recruitment firms, etc.].

 

© Kristina Evans dedicates her free time (if that even exists) to (typically) writing about how musical lyrics, poetry, and literature can provide professional meaning and motivation to the world.  She also writes about recruiting, human resources & marketing/personal branding.

Like [or don't like] what you read?  Please take the time to let me know by liking [or not liking], commenting & sharing this post.

Also, check out other posts by visiting my profile.

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4 Non-Annoying Ways to Follow Up After an Interview

Author: Forbes Contributor

You landed the interview, and as far as you’re concerned? You nailed that sucker.

Or, you met with a recruiter who seemed super interested and incredibly connected with the exact kinds of companies for whom you want to work.

She said, “Keep in touch!”

Awesome. But a couple of weeks have gone by and nothing’s happened. So what do you do now? Can you follow up with her without reeking of desperation or looking like a pest?

This topic freaks a lot of job seekers out. Many people, even when they know they truly lit the interview on fire, would rather do absolutely nothing than risk looking stupid or making the wrong follow-up move.

But that’s what’s stupid. Because staying top of mind is incredibly important—and not just for the job at hand. Even if you’re not the right candidate for a particular position (or the position is filled before you can really show the company your amazingness), wowing the right decision maker—a recruiter, an HR person, or a hiring manager—can be incredibly valuable down the line.

With that in mind, here are a few ways you can ease the “staying in touch” part of the job search equation:

1. Ask About Next Steps (Before You Leave the Interview)

As a recruiter, it stuns me that so few people end the conversation with this interview question. But if you ask the interviewer what happens next, you know exactly when it’s acceptable to follow up. If the she says she’ll be contacting candidates within a week, and it’s day 9? It’s completely OK to touch base and remind her of the timetable she gave you. Don’t be pushy, but a quick note is perfect:

“Hi Sue—I hope you’re having a great week. You mentioned that your team would be finalizing a hiring decision on the Marketing Manager position this week. I’m eager to hear when you have an update. And certainly, if I may provide any additional information to support your decision-making process, please let me know!”

2. Get That Thank-You Note Out (With Lightning Speed)

Thank-you notes matter: They give you a terrific opportunity to follow up with the decision-maker right away. I encourage job seekers to get thank-you notes out (to each individual they’ve met in the interview process) immediately after the interview. Same day. From your laptop in the parking lot, if you really want to wow them.

Use this moment to affirm to the hiring manager that you’re on top of things and would bring a ton of value into the position for which you’re interviewing. Make it easy for them to decide on you.

3. Ask if You Can Connect via LinkedIn (Then Do)

Hey, this is a potential long-term professional relationship in the making. So it’s perfectly appropriate to connect on LinkedIn after the interview. That said—you don’t want to ambush anyone with your request, or leave the decision-maker wondering what your motives are (and please—no generic connection requests!). Instead, you should create a logical reason for connecting, then ask if she’s OK with it while you’re at the interview.

“You want to start dragon boat racing? I’d love to introduce you to my former colleague. He leads a dragon boat team right here in Portland.”

Or maybe, “I read a New York Times article about how Coca-Cola KO -0.94% is employing brand strategy in this same way. Did you see it? I’ll be happy to forward it to you.”

There’s your in. And once you’re in? You can build a long-term professional relationship with that person, whether you end up landing the job or not.

4. If Things Drag Out, Check in (Periodically)

This is the job search technique people tend to stink at the most—the periodic check-in. But it’s so important, and it should be used throughout your career to keep your network fresh and engaged.

Now, this is not about harassment: “Did I get the job?” “Do you have a job for me?” “Did you make a decision?” Not at all. It’s about offering something of value to your contact. And in doing so, you will also (by default) remind her that you’re still out there.

This could mean forwarding an article that you think she’ll find interesting, or congratulating her if you notice she’s been promoted or earned some sort of recognition. Maybe thanking her for a bit of advice that you employed. Keep it simple and brief, and don’t ask for anything back. If that person hears from you and has an update? She’ll absolutely be in touch. Try:

“Hi Sue, We spoke last month about the product manager position at XYZ Industries. In our conversation, you highlighted some emerging trends in food packaging. I noticed this attached article about the same topic and thought of you. No response necessary. I hope you find the information useful!”

Nothing elaborate, and once a month is probably about right if you don’t get much response. But you can be assured that Sue will remember you, and in a good way if you’re helpful and non-pesky in the follow-up.

The bottom line is: Stay top of mind. It's half the battle.

To read the original article, click here.