How to Set Up and Nail Informational Interviews Over the Holidays

Home on break? Sick of studying? Tired of your parents asking what  your plans are for next year? Now is a perfect time to set up some oh-so-important informational interviews.

What is the point of informational interviews?

Informational interviews serve three key purposes.

First, it allows you to connect with someone and have a conversation about a company or industry that interests you. This person may be able to help you get a job in the future either directly or indirectly.

Second, it does exactly what the title suggests — gives you information about a potential career path, corporation, or field without having a formal interview. It’s a learning opportunity with low stakes (though it’s a great chance to make a good impression on someone).

Third, informational interviews allow you to hone your interview skills and get better at selling yourself. While they can be held over the phone or on skype, scheduling them face to face is ideal. Use it as a chance to practice your networking skills.

How do you go about scheduling informational interviews?

You’ll need to create a list of targets. According to Ben Carpenter, author of The Bigs, you should aim to have at least 40 to 50 informational interviews during your junior and senior year. Woah is right. When you’re looking for your first job, it’s important to cast a wide net. But if you conduct 10 or so informational interviews over winter break, you’ll be well on your way to hitting this goal and hopefully, getting a job.

Setting the meetings up is a numbers game. You should assume that about 50 percent of the people that you reach out to will return your email. Of those that return your email, about 50 percent will be able to meet with you. In order to hit your target of 10 interviews over winter break, you’ll need a bit list of contacts. Here’s how to start creating that list:

Here’s how to start creating that list:

Leverage your alumni database.

Every college has an incredible alumni database. Not sure how to use it? Contact your career service office and they will be able to set you up. Pro tip: start by searching for companies you want to work with and make a list of the alums who work in those companies.

Look up the city where you live. Make a list of all of the alumni in your area that have job titles that sound interesting to you. Go outside your comfort zone. If you think you are interested in marketing, add someone who is in sales to that list. Want to work in investment banking? Meet with the CFO of a corporation – chances are they started where you are.

Finally, while executives and directors may have more influence in hiring decisions, connect with younger alumni as well. Make a list of target alums that have graduated in the past year. These alumni were recently in your shoes and will have a valuable perspective.

Discuss your aspirations with parents and family friends.

Let it be known that you’re starting your job search and want to talk to anyone who can help and give you advice. Your parents and family friends will be thrilled with your initiative and want to help. Always remember, people like helping people.

Reach out to those close to you and them what type of people you’re interested in meeting. Ask for their recommendations. When appropriate, ask those close to you for an email introduction. If you want to take it to the next level, look at who your parents and family friends are connected to on LinkedIn. Ask them politely for an introduction to those people.

Ask for referrals from professors, coaches, and club leaders.

Your professors, coaches, and club leaders are likely still in touch with alumni. Asking these people for introductions can put you at a great advantage because you already have something in common with that person – you took the same class, were on the same team, performed on the same stage. You share a common interest and chances are they will be more willing to help you because of that.

Now that you have your list, start emailing. Remember, your goal is to email at least 50 people to set up 10 meetings. Make sure to put something personal in each email, keep them short and sweet, and don’t be afraid to follow up if you do not get a response. You should email everyone at least twice before you give up on them.

Finally, remember to remain positive. Each time you write an email, schedule an informational interview and complete it, give yourself a pat on the back, a cookie, or whatever reward will make you feel good. Finding a job is a marathon, not a sprint, and it is important to celebrate each task that you accomplish. Good luck!

Download our free email templates for reaching out to alumni, connections, or friends.


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