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).]