How to set up an informational interview – Ramit Sethi
An informational interview is an opportunity to meet someone who works in a position or industry you’d like to work in, where you can ask them questions about their job and get the inside scoop.
Never, ever directly ask for a job in an informational interview. That’s a big no-no. You can turn an informational interview into a potential job opportunity, but only if you approach it wisely. Here’s the first step of that process: The email introduction for an informational interview.
By the way, the best place to get informational interviews is via your alumni association. People who went to the same college have a bond with each other, even decades later.
Subject: Michigan State grad — would love to chat about your work at Deloitte
My name is Samantha Kerritt. I’m a ’04 grad from Michigan State (I know you were a few years before me) and I came across your name on our alumni site. [TELL THEM HOW YOU CAME ACROSS THEIR NAME SO YOU DON’T SEEM LIKE A CREEP]
I’d love to get your career advice for 15-20 minutes. I’m currently working at Acme Tech Company, but many of my friends work in consulting and each time they tell me how much they love their job, I get more interested. [THE FIRST SENTENCE SAYS WHAT SHE WANTS. MOST PEOPLE ARE FLATTERED THAT PEOPLE WANT/VALUE THEIR ADVICE.
Most of them have told me that if I’m interested in consulting, I have to talk to someone at Deloitte. Do you think I could pick your brain on your job and what motivated you to choose Deloitte? I’d especially love to know how you made your choices after graduating from Michigan State. [THE PHRASE “PICK YOUR BRAIN” IS ONE OF THE BEST WAYS TO ASK FOR ADVICE AND FLATTER, AND “MICHIGAN STATE” REINFORCES SHARED BOND]
I can meet you for coffee or at your office…or wherever it’s convenient. I can work around you! [THE BUSY PERSON IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOU. TREAT THEM ACCORDINGLY.]
Would it be possible for us to meet? [A BUSY PERSON CAN SIMPLY REPLY TO THIS WITH A “YES” — PERFECT. NOTE THAT I DIDN’T ASK FOR THE TIME/LOCATION AS THAT’S TOO MUCH INFORMATION IN THE FIRST EMAIL.]
How to ask for recommendations for people to talk to
Hope all is well.
If you recall, we spoke a few months ago when I was exploring new career opportunities in information security (I was your student at the time). Thanks again for agreeing to be my reference! [REMIND THE BUSY PERSON HOW YOU KNOW EACH OTHER
I was browsing the the Acme Career site the other day and the Research Scientist role caught my eye. I think it’d be perfect for me considering my work on insider threat-related projects at Current Company. [NOTE THAT THE FOCUS OF THIS EMAIL IS ASKING FOR RECOMMENDATIONS, NOT DIRECTLY ASKING FOR A JOB. JOHN UNDERSTANDS YOU’RE LOOKING FOR WORK AND DOESN’T WANT TO BE PUT ON THE SPOT. IF HE WANTS TO TALK TO YOU ABOUT THE POSITION, HE WILL.]
From what I remember, it sounds pretty similar to the work you do at Acme. By any chance, do you know of anyone there that you think I should chat with? I’d love to learn more about the role so I can see if it’s the right fit for me.
If not, no problem — just wanted to keep you in the loop. Thanks again for all your help!
The Closing The Loop script – Ramit Sethi
The Closing The Loop script helps you stay in touch with people you’ve met once and turn a one-time meeting into a long-term relationship.
1. Thank You (same day)
Just wanted to thank you again for meeting with me earlier. I’m definitely going to get in touch with Susan like you recommended. I’ll keep you in the loop, and of course, please let me know if there’s anything I can do to repay the favor!
[RAMIT’S ANALYSIS: Notice the simple thank you, but also a reference to a specific action item you’re going to follow up on (showing you were paying attention during the meeting/call). This email ends with a friendly offer to help and asks nothing of the VIP.]
2. Add Value (1-2 weeks later)
Saw this article in the Wall Street Journal and it reminded me of what you said about productivity tests! No response needed, just thought you might find it interesting.
[RAMIT’S ANALYSIS: This email is where things start to get surprising. The VIP likely didn’t expect to hear back from you, since almost nobody follows up beyond one email. In this email, you’re sending a valuable piece of material — an article, blog post, photo, whatever — of something you KNOW he will find interesting.
How do you know what he’ll find interesting? Because during your meeting, you listened and took careful notes.
Finally, pay close attention to the phrase used in the last sentence: “No response needed.” This is music to a busy person’s ears. Think about it: I get 600+ emails/day, and do you know what most of them want? They want something from me. When you can say “No response needed,” and send me something I find fascinating, you’re adding value to my life.]
3. Close the Loop (2-3 weeks later)
Wanted to give you an update: I did end up talking to Susan, and you were right — Acme is definitely a fit for me. I’m reaching out to a friend there to learn all I can about Acme before I apply. If there’s anyone else you think I should speak to, please let me know.
Thanks again! I’ll let you know how it goes.
[RAMIT’S ANALYSIS: Here, you show the VIP that you actually took action on what he suggested. This will instantly differentiate you from 99% of people. Notice you name specific names, let him know if he was right (or even if you chose something different than his recommendation).]
- Can you tell me about your experiences doing this type of work?
- Can you tell me about the path you took to get to this point?
- …about a typical day?
- What do you enjoy most about your work? What do you least enjoy?
- What recommendations would you give to someone interested in getting involved in this area of practice?
- What experience did you have to get your job?
- What are the toughest problems and decisions you handle?
- What do you wish you had known about your position/the field before you started?
- What type of professional and personal skills does it take to succeed at this type of work?
- What do you see as the major issues/ trends in the field today?
- What recommendations do you have for me regarding a job search strategy?
- What other people do you recommend that I talk with? May I tell them that you referred me to them
- What are your primary job responsibilities?
- Thank you very much for your time and advice. It has been very helpful.
oil (olive or vegetable)
1 cup cornmeal
1 1/2 pounds chicken (breasts or thighs) pounded thin, salted and peppered
1 garlic clove, minced
3 to 4 scallions, chopped
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon soy sauce
juice of one lime
cilantro, chopped for garnish
Add oil to a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Pour cornmeal onto a dinner plate and dredge chicken pieces so they are completely covered, then drop into hot skillet. Try not to crowd the pan. (I always do, but this is because of a deep behavioral flaw. Please don’t follow suit.) Rotate and flip for a total of about 8 minutes until chicken is firm to the touch but not rock hard. As you cook your chicken, remove to a platter and tent with foil to keep warm. Add a little more oil with each new batch.
When all your pieces have been cooked, add a little more oil, then cook garlic and scallions, about one minute. Add chicken broth, soy sauce, and lime juice, turn heat up and cook until it reduces slightly, about 30 seconds. Drizzle pan sauce over platter of chicken. Garnish with cilantro and serve.
6 cups chopped romaine lettuce
3 slices center-cut bacon
1 pear, chopped
1 apple, chopped
1/4 cup peanuts, chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup Poppy Seed Salad Dressing (or more or less)
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar (or more or less)
Dressing – It can be stored in the fridge for a week
1 small shallot, minced
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
3 tbsp olive oil (whisk in)
In a Dutch oven or a soup pot, brown 1 chopped onion in olive oil. Add salt, pepper, a few fresh thyme leaves, 1 tablespoon curry powder (optional) and a pinch of cayenne if the kids are OK with it. Add one butternut squash (halved, peeled, seeded, and hacked up into 1-inch cubes; the pre-chopped bags will save you lots of time here) and 2 apples (peeled and cut into chunks) and enough chicken broth to cover it all by about a half inch. Bring to a boil, then simmer 30 minutes until squash chunks are tender. Puree with a handheld immersion blender, or in batches in the blender, adding apple cider (apple juice box?) or more broth until it reaches desired consistency. Serve and top with any combo of the following: walnuts, chives, creme fraiche (or sour cream).
Another Butternut Squash Recipe – Roasted Butternut Squash Recipe with Smoky Chickpeas
2 small butternut squash (about 4lbs total)
extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper
15oz can garbanzo beans (also called chickpeas)
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1-1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika, divided
6 slices bacon, chopped
2 large or 3 small leeks, white and light green parts only, chopped in half then thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1-2 Tablespoons maple syrup (depends on how sweet you want your soup)
3 cups chicken broth
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Pierce bulb ends of butternut squash with a sharp knife then microwave for 1-1/2 minutes to make them easier to cut. Cut in half lengthwise with a sharp knife then remove seeds with a spoon and place cut-side up on a nonstick sprayed baking sheet. Brush or mist with extra virgin olive oil then season liberally with salt and pepper.
- Drain chickpeas then rinse and pat dry with a towel (the dryer the better.) Pour onto a baking sheet then add extra virgin olive oil and 1-1/4 teaspoons smoked paprika and then toss with your hands to coat.
- Place baking sheets into the oven. Roast butternut squash for 45-60 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the thickest part of the squash goes in easily. If squash starts burning before it’s tender, lay a piece of foil on top. Set aside until cool enough to handle. Roast chickpeas for 25-30 minutes, stirring or shaking the pan every 10 minutes, or until crisp (beans will continue crisping as they cool.) Sprinkle with salt then set aside to cool.
- Meanwhile, crisp bacon in a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat then remove to a paper towel lined plate to train. Remove all but 2 Tablespoons bacon grease from pot then add leeks and season with salt and pepper. Saute for 7-10 minutes, or until leeks are golden brown and tender, then add garlic and saute for one more minute. Transfer mixture to a blender then remove pot from heat and add maple syrup and remaining 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika to blender.
- Scoop butternut squash flesh out of the skin with a spoon then add it to the blender along with 2 cups chicken broth (may need to do this in two batches.) Blend until very smooth then pour back into soup pot and turn heat to low. Stir in remaining cup chicken broth then cook on low for 10 minutes. Taste and add remaining tablespoon maple syrup, salt, and pepper if desired. Serve topped with cooked bacon, smoky-roasted chickpeas, crostini and/or fresh bread.
- To freeze: Cool soup then scoop into a freezer bag and freeze flat. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight then reheat on the stove (may need to add more chicken broth to thin out a bit.)
- Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by – Recommended by Skimm
Blacking out is never good. But imagine this: A 24-year-old New York Post reporter wakes up strapped to a hospital bed. No recollection of the entire past month. A true story of a woman’s descent into madness and the rare medical condition that got her there. You won’t be able to look away
- The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan – Recommended by EW, Lauren Conrad, etc.
This book is a collection of essays and stories on everything from Internet envy to exterminators. The author died in a car crash two years ago, shortly after her Yale graduation.
- The Secret History by Donna Tartt – Recommended by Lauren Conrad
A small New England college. A murder. Something about Ancient Greece. The author of “The Goldfinch”. This one really sucks you in.
- The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty – Recommended by EW, People, etc.
This New York Times #1 Bestseller is a must read. Here’s how Amazon describes it: “Imagine that your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret—something with the potential to destroy not just the life you built together, but the lives of others as well. Imagine, then, that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive….”
Dream Job: Mastering the Art of Interviewing by Ramit Sethi
- Don’t ramble- Just shut up! Use short, concise sentences. 30-45 seconds per answer.
- Tell stories- Give an example for each skill you are highlighting
Other Ramit Sethi Interviewing Tips (http://privatelist.findyourdreamjob.com/master-level-interviewing/):
- Have 3 “Must Says”- These are different for each job you apply to. Think about the hiring managers fears and what would make their job easier.
- Stick to the message– AKA reinforce your must says
- When asked how to answer the question “tell me about yourself”- only use critical points and must says (example: I worked on Capitol Hill in a busy office where I learned how to prioritize and work effectively in a fast-paced environment; I went to law school where improved my analytical skills)
- Answer the question behind the question–
- Why do you want to work here?- They are looking to see if you have prepared a crisp, short answer.
- Are you a job hopper?- They are worried that you will leave right after being hired. The Answer: “When I first started my career I didn’t know what I wanted so I tried … Now I know exactly what I want, which is why I’m excited to be here. I know this is where I want to build my career, and I’m ready to spend several years doing that.”