Before going into an informational interview, you must be prepared. If an executive is willing to give you their time, you want to show them that you appreciate their time and you take the opportunity very seriously. Go into the meeting looking sharp, carrying a clean notebook and pen (not a crumpled up piece of paper), and armed with at least 10 questions. Most likely, you will be able to ask the employer at least 5 of your questions so have the questions listed out in your notebook in priority order. Today, I set up a current intern of mine with an entertainment publicist friend for an informational interview. I told my intern to run her list of questions by me first as I wanted to help make sure her questions made sense (since I know my friend’s position at the company) and were in her best interest. If you have a close relationship with the person who sets up the informational meeting, you can also try running your questions by this person ahead of time. To clarify, I’m encouraging you to run the questions by the person who set up the meeting – not the person you are actually meeting with. Here are some tips when putting together your questions:
1. Every question should be designed to either teach you more about that job/field/industry or provide you with insight on how to get started in that job/field/industry.
2. Use the opportunity to understand what you can do today to get to where you want to be. Ask questions like, “What websites/magazines do you read to keep up-to-date about your industry?”
3. Remember, you want to use this opportunity to get advice for your own personal situation. Ask questions like, “How would you suggest I get started in this industry? What can I do today (as a high school or college student) to make myself a more desirable candidate?”
4. You should leave the informational interview with a clear idea of this person’s roles/responsibilities. You can ask questions like, “What are some of your day-to-day roles/responsibilities?”
5. Not every job is glamorous, every job has it’s downsides, you can also ask, “What are the biggest challenges you face within your job?” Use this informational interview as an opportunity to understand all sides of the job/industry.
6. If the person you are meeting with goes into lengthy job descriptions or starts to list out great resources for you, take out your pen/paper and start making notes. Show them that you are serious.
7. If the person you meet with suggests you follow up with them or visit any websites, make sure you do so. Send them a note about it a few weeks later to let them know you took their advice.
8. Send the person a thank you note after the meeting or phone call and let them know you appreciate them taking time out of their day to speak with you.