People have asked me why I don't talk about informational interviews in my networking workshops. The answer is that they ARE a form of networking.
Networking is simply having conversations with people you know. As job seekers, networking becomes defined as looking for a job. It is absolutely more than this.
An Informational Interview, probably a better term to use would be Informational Meeting, means talking with someone about what they do and/or what their company does to learn and get questions answered.
Are people really willing to take time to speak with you about this? It depends. Usually they have to see value in investing their time. Think WIIFM. "What is in it for me". What will they get by taking time to talk to you about what they do?
- A boost to their ego
- Feeling like they have done something helpful
- Paying back a favor to a friend
- Sourcing for future hiring needs
HOW you ask for this meeting is the key. Using the right language/words/tone of voice makes all the difference in securing the meeting.
Here are some tips:
Reference a referral source early in the conversation.
"I was speaking with Sarah Doe and she highly recommended that I speak with you about _______________ (occupation or company name). Sarah says you are extremely knowledgeable and would be helpful in my quest for information in this area".
State the purpose of your meeting.
"I would enjoy meeting with you to discuss what you feel are the most valuable assets of people in your field".
Be prepared to handle objections. They may not really mean what they say.
I'm really busy
I'm not the right person
If you are looking for a job, talk to HR
We aren't hiring right now
None of these responses really mean no. They just mean that the person doesn't feel like it is "safe" or worth their time. Flattery will get you everywhere. Try feeding them some. Also, remind them of who referred you. Guilt is a wonderful leverager.
Honestly, there isn't a hidden agenda. You are seeking information. This may or may not lead to your wanting anything more from them. And who knows, it might be the beginning of a new friendship.
This is a lifelong search. Never, ever stop learning.