You never know when a single email can change the course of your life.
You already know that the right connection can jumpstart your career, or give it the shot it needs to help you to the job of your dreams.
I’ll assume here that you’re emailing the person ‘cold’—that is, without any common connections or prior knowledge. It’s always preferable to be referred to the person, but either way, it comes down to whether or not you’ll be a good steward of the other person’s time.
Chances are you aren’t a CEO or top-level executive, but even you can’t read the vast majority of what enters your inbox… let alone type even a short response to it. There’s simply not enough bandwidth to do that—like you, the other person is busy and needs to prioritise.
But that shouldn’t intimidate you. Rather, it’s a challenge to demonstrate professionalism, respect for time and value to them.
Here’s how to set up a killer informational interview that delivers maximum benefit—not just to yourself, but to your contact and industry.
1. Learn as much as you can about the person and industry.
The initial email—whether it’s sent by LinkedIn, Facebook Messenger or something else—has only one goal: To produce a ‘yes’ from the other person. To that end, craft the outreach email in a way that doesn’t require the person to do anything else.
That means you’ll have to do your homework. Find out about the person through Google, LinkedIn or any other online presence they have—if they’ve been featured in the media before, that’s a big bonus as you’ll have a window into their thoughts and priorities.
2. Be clear about what you want, and how the other person can provide it.
Don’t be vague or overly deferential. Most people like clear, concise requests that make specific requests. Too often, emails have generic phrases like: “Let’s grab a drink sometime” or “How about coffee when you’re free?”
Instead, take the initiative to suggest a time. Again, all the other person has to do is say yes; if they can’t make it, they’ll be inclined to suggest another.
There’s an exception to this. Don’t ask for a job at an informational interview; it’s considered bad form, as you’ve only just met the person! Informational interviews are opportunities to get insider information about an industry that you can use to decide whether you want to join it, and to understand what hiring managers really care about. Your role here isn’t to talk, but to listen
3. Acknowledge they’re busy, and show respect for the other person’s time.
Don’t waste the other person’s time. If you indicate a specific duration for the meeting (such as 15 minutes), it will be easier to accept. It helps to offer to end the session when that time is up, then go overtime only if the other person allows it.
4. Prepare questions in advance.
The general rule is: The more industry-specific the question, and the less likely you are to simply find an answer on Google, the better. As the old tech saying goes: “Google is your friend.”
That means no generic ones like: “How do you stay motivated?” or “What’s your advice to someone starting out?” Instead, your homework includes uncovering detailed queries such as:
- “Apart from those in the job application, what are the skills someone in this job will need?”
- “How do you spend most of your time, and what’s the workday like for you?”
- “What differentiates your company from its competitors?”
- “What do you like the most about your work? The least?”
- “What sort of promotion prospects can I look forward to in this job?”
- “Which books, blogs or other websites do you follow in your work?”
- “How do you see yourself and your company responding to [trend]?”
Done right, the informational interview will save you years of experiencing the wrong career path, and steer you in the right direction—so you will have a purposeful map to reaching your goals.
Likewise in investing, setting out with a goal in mind, is most important in achieving it. What you think day in, and day out, is what you will achieve, when you put your mind to it.
Have you experienced an infoview before? Let us know how it went and if you have any other pointers to share!
If you want to know more about The Income Mastery Programme and its benefits . . . email us now at email@example.com (Singapore)
Zhengping Lu is a Programs Executive at Eagles Communications, a non-profit that helps emerging young leaders and public speakers reach their fullest potential, and serve with honour and integrity.