The Do’s and Don’ts of Informational Interviews

An informational interview is an amazing chance for you to make a connection with a professional you admire, gain valuable advice, and take advantage of someone else’s expertise. Most importantly, it’s a critical opportunity for you to showcase your brand, get yourself out there, and potentially gain the introduction or referral that you need!

I’ve set up and participated in countless informational interviews. Having sat at both ends of the table, I’ve gained valuable insights into the do’s and don’ts of these types of meetings. I’ve been so impressed by some people, but, on the flip side, shocked and disappointed by others.

Key message: if you’re going into an informational interview, the most important thing to remember is that you are taking up their time. Time is money, and they’re donating some of theirs to you. You can convey your gratitude by making sure that everything runs smoothly and that you’re ready to make an amazing impression!

Here’s what not to do during an informational interview:

1. Don’t slouch.

Slouching gives off the impression of two major no-nos: insecurity and boredom. Even if you’re doing a video call, make sure that you pay attention to your posture. Good posture signals interest, engagement, and poise – three things you absolutely want to convey!

2. Don’t mumble.

If you’re questioning whether or not you’re a mumbler, keep these two tips in mind: enunciate and speak with confidence. You can easily speak in a clear tone of voice by slowing down your speech and focusing on each thought before moving on to the next one. Don’t rush!

3. Don’t be late.

This is critical because it will set the tone for the rest of your informational interview. If you’re meeting in person, plan to be there ten minutes in advance. It’s always better to be the one sitting at the table and waiting than the one walking in late and apologizing. If you’re meeting over video call, make sure that you have everything you need installed. Take the time to quickly Google set-up instructions, just to double check!

4. Don’t make it awkward.

Awkwardness can result from a number of things: your own unpreparedness, a lack of rapport between the two of you, or an unwillingness on your part to engage. How do you conquer this? Here are 8 ways to avoid awkwardness:

  • Know what you want to get out of the meeting. Is it advice? A referral? An introduction? Get clear on this before you even think about scheduling an informational interview.
  • Show up & wake up! Get excited! This is a great opportunity for you. Take advantage of it by remaining alert and listening throughout your conversation.
  • Speak with enthusiasm! Sound alive! Talk about subjects that you’re passionate about and try to convey a genuine interest in the person.
  • Take it seriously. Remember, they’re doing this for you, not the other way around.
  • Have an agenda. My top tip: make a plan for the meeting at least 2 days in advance and send it to the other person beforehand so that they can prepare if necessary.
  • Ask questions. In fact, prepare a list of them. In the event that the conversation slows down, you’ll have these ready as backups.
  • Initiate a 2-way conversation. Don’t make it all about you. The best way to do this is to ask about their personal experiences in their career, industry, or organization. Ask them about some of the major challenges they’ve faced and how they’ve overcome them. Not only will this build rapport, it will also convey that you’re interested!
  • Share your experiences and aspirations. Don’t be afraid to let them know what you’ve done, where you are now, and where you want to go from here. This will build trust while giving them a better sense of how they can help you!

Do you have any questions about setting up or participating in an informational interview? Ask me in the comments section!


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