When searching for a new job, it may be helpful to seek more information about companies than is readily available through internet searches. You can seek guidance to help you change your career path, facts about an industry or specifics about a company’s culture and hiring practices. Gathering information during a job search can help you more confidently choose your career path. In this article, we discuss how to ask a company representative for an informational interview.
What is an informational interview?
An informational interview is an informal conversation with someone who works in a career of interest to you. It differs from a formal job interview in that you ask the questions to gain information about the industry or a specific company. You can consider it part of the research phase of job searching rather than a way to pursue open positions. Setting up an interview may involve using a professional networking website, reaching out to a contact in your professional network to help you connect to a specific person at a company or finding a name through a company directory and contacting the person directly.
Related: Informational Interview Questions
How to ask for an informational job interview
Once you have determined who you would like to ask for help, here are some tips to help you request an informational job interview through email:
- Be prepared before you send an email.
- Use a thoughtful subject line.
- Be concise.
- Briefly describe yourself.
- Explain how you found them.
- Acknowledge their accomplishments.
- Directly ask for help.
- Be considerate.
1. Be prepared before you send an email
Before you ask for help, have your questions prepared in advance in case the person you contact has immediate availability to meet or speak on the phone. Since you are the one asking for help, you want to be the most flexible in your scheduling.
Related: How to Write a Professional Email
2. Use a thoughtful subject line
When you do not know someone personally, the email subject line should introduce your request concisely and with specific words. A simple greeting like “hello” or a generic word like “information” may get filtered by their email program or not seem important enough to open. You could compose your email first, then let the subject line act as a summary. Use around 30 to 50 characters for easy readability on any platform. For example, “Sally Smith recommended I contact you” or “I enjoyed your article in Business Journal.”
3. Be concise
Get to the point of your email quickly so your contact is willing to read the whole thing. Avoid filler content like “I hope this email finds you well” or “I hope you are having a nice day.” You can be courteous, professional and positive while directly addressing the reasons for your email.
4. Briefly describe yourself
Your introduction could include where you went to college, what you studied, your current or previous jobs, where you live or any connections you have in common with the contact. This introduction is to help someone get to know you in terms of your request for information, not necessarily as a job seeker. A conversation about your job search and career goals is more appropriate at another time.
5. Explain how you found them
If you were connected by a mutual contact, you can say something like “Gretchen Jones recommended we connect. She spoke highly of your insider knowledge.” If you are contacting them through your own research, you could write “Through your company directory I see you are the director of Human Resources.”
6. Acknowledge their accomplishments
It can be useful for the recipient of your email to know why you chose them to contact, especially if you are contacting them without a networking advantage. You may have read a publication they wrote that you admired, read an interview or heard a podcast where they were a guest, know them by reputation or heard about an award they received. If you have a reason to show respect and acknowledgment, that can help the recipient know you have chosen them specifically for their credentials or achievements.
7. Directly ask for help
It is okay to state it simply: “I hope you can help me” or “I would love to get your help.” Many professionals appreciate being asked to mentor or assist others seeking guidance in their industry. Be specific about the kind of help you are looking for. “I have a few questions” does not indicate how much of their time you need, while “I was hoping we could meet for 30 minutes to ask some questions about your experiences in human resources” presents your request and expectations clearly. The more specific your questions, the more likely someone is to know if they can help.
8. Be considerate
As the person asking the favor, it is respectful to acknowledge that the other person’s time is valuable and how much you appreciate their consideration of your request. You can suggest some times you have available and how you would like to meet but demonstrate your willingness to adapt by speaking on the phone instead or even corresponding via email if that is what they would prefer.
Informational interview request example
Consider using this sample email to help you write your own request for an informational interview:
Subject: I enjoyed your recent podcast
Dear Mrs. Fergilli,
My name is Grace Jones. For the last five years, I was working as a consultant with our mutual friend Henry Smith, and he recommended I listen to your podcast on the issues facing women in management roles. I really appreciate the insights you shared. I was hoping you might be able to meet for a coffee or lunch to discuss this further. I have some questions I would love to ask you on that subject; specifically, the best way to approach pursuing promotions.
Of course, if it is more convenient to talk on the phone, that would work well for me also. I have some free time next Wednesday or Thursday and the following week most of my days are open, if any of those options are convenient for you.
Thank you again for sharing your experiences, and I look forward to speaking with you.