What is the best way to contact connections and ask them for an informational interview without making it sound like you need a favor? Most people think that the person just wants a job, so they do not reply. —M.R., Claremont, CA
I am a big fan of conducting informational interviews as part of any job seeker’s networking strategy, especially if you’re new to the job market or considering a transition to a new field or industry.
They are a great way to grow your connections, promote your personal brand, learn about the job market in your targeted field and uncover unpublished job leads.
However, they’re not about begging for favors. You should never go into an informational interview expecting to come away with a job lead. As the name suggests, the goal of an informational interview is to gather more information and grow your network so you’re better equipped to navigate the job market. A job lead would be a bonus.
But before we talk about how to reach out to your connections, we first need to discuss who you should be reaching out to.
Take a good look at your current network and prioritize your contacts based on their ability to help you. The first group will be people within your current or desired line of work: former colleagues, vendors, business partners, customers and so forth. Hopefully these are people with whom you’ve maintained a friendly, if not close, relationship. Who in this group is actually in a position to know about industry news and job openings? Target those people.
But there’s also another group of contacts that will be incredibly valuable because of their social reach. They are the social butterflies among your circle of friends. You know the ones – they tend to run in a number of very different social circles and love gathering people together and making introductions. Malcolm Gladwell refers to them as “connectors” in his book, The Tipping Point. Whether in your industry or not, connectors like this can be an important gateway to other valuable connections.
This social butterfly will be able to put you in touch with people you might never meet otherwise — and talking you up to connections could help you secure a phone call or lunch meeting. A social butterfly is good at that.
Now that we’ve identified the right people to target, it’s time to discuss your approach.
When you’ve been out of contact with people you’ve worked with in the past, it can feel very weird reaching out. And you’re right – the assumption will probably be that you’re looking for job leads. To help combat that, I recommend you reconnect before you ask for anything. Send a simple note via email or over one of your social networks saying hi and asking how everything is going. If you’ve noticed they’ve changed companies or passed some career or family milestone, mention it and congratulate them (hint: do a little online research). It’s an easy excuse to reach out.
Subject Line: Catching Up – Amanda Augustine
Long time no speak!
How’s everything at Amgen these days? I was on LinkedIn yesterday and noticed you were recently promoted to Senior Director – congratulations! How’s the new gig treating you?
I’d love to grab lunch with you next week and catch up. Let me know if you’re available.
Please send my hellos to Brennan and the boys!
AmandaThe fall season is also a great time to reconnect with people you haven’t spoken to in a while. Find out how their summer was, and now that everyone is back to school and their old routines, it’s the perfect time to catch up over lunch or happy hour. There’s no major “ask” on your part, and it won’t appear like you’re begging for job help.
Once you’ve reconnected, then you can pick their brain about their company or industry, and find out if they can help. Don’t ask for a job. Most people you meet with won’t be able to offer that type of help. And if they have to say no, it makes them less likely to help you in other ways. What you can ask for is a job reference, an introduction to another contact or some insight into the industry.
Personal Acquaintances More tips and complete TheLadders article