How to Ask for an Information Meeting from a Networking Contact
After you find people during your job search who you think can provide you with some insight into an industry, company, or opportunity, you’re ready to take the next step: contacting them to ask for an informational interview. However, reaching out to someone without first thinking about your messaging is a mistake.
Between LinkedIn and Twitter, LinkedIn is the better way to reach out to potential info interview contacts because you can be more detailed in your request, thanks to LinkedIn’s lengthier messaging format.
If you use Twitter, you’re confined to 140 characters, which doesn’t help you make a compelling case about why the person should talk to you. So use Twitter to get a person’s attention, but use LinkedIn to request the call.
Here is a list of attributes of a successful info interview request on LinkedIn. Keep the following pointers in mind the next time you reach out to someone to secure an informational interview:
Lead with something in common. Although what you have in common may be obvious, leading with it really works to contextualize the conversation. If you have nothing in common, then mention how you found the other person. Chances are you found that person on LinkedIn during your research.
Get to your point fast. Don’t beat around the bush. Tell the person exactly what your intentions are for the communication. In the context of an info interview, the purpose of the call or visit is so you can ask questions about a company or industry.
Reassure the person that you’re not asking for a favor. No one likes being put on the spot. If people suspect that you’re going to ask them for a job, they may anticipate having to turn you down. Saying no isn’t fun and most people try to avoid it. Be firm in your intention that this isn’t a job solicitation.
Talk about what makes you qualified. A lot of desperate people are looking for work. Most of them don’t qualify for the positions they apply to, and many people desperately ping others for favors out of a sense of entitlement. Show your contact that you’re not one of these people. You’re uniquely qualified based on your skills and background. You are, in short, very seriously pursuing your career.
End with a strong call to action with a time limit. Put a fence around how long the conversation will last. Mention that you need only 10 to 15 minutes of their time. Make sure you end the conversation with a clear next step. Are you asking him for a phone number? Are you asking him to pick a time next week? Are you asking him to coffee?
Show appreciation for their time. Professional appreciation can go a long way and help you look more assertive. It sounds something like this, “I’d really appreciate it if you would…” or “I understand that things may be busy for you, but I’d really appreciate just a few minutes to…”
Using these building blocks, here is the perfect info interview communication. Feel free to use it as a template for your own search for information.
Dear [name of the person you’re contacting],
I found your profile through the [name the common LinkedIn Group or network] on LinkedIn. I have been working as a [name last position] at [name last company], and I am in the process of making a career transition.
It would be helpful for me to find out about your experiences as a [name role] for [target company]. I promise not to take more than 15 minutes of your time.
I am not expecting to discuss a particular job opening, but I would appreciate being able to talk with you on an informational basis.
What is the best way to reach you this week? I have Thursday at 9 a.m. and Friday at 2 p.m. available. If these times conflict with your schedule, I am happy to meet with you at your convenience. I thank you in advance.
If someone doesn’t get back to you within a week, you can try sending another request. Assume that this person is simply busy. After the second try, however, assume the answer is no, and stop pursuing this contact. The last thing you want to be is a pest.