By Julia Sosenko
BGE Career Strategy & Professional Development
What is an informational interview and why should I do one?
Informational interviews are one of the most valuable tools in your job search. They help you expand your professional network, explore different career options, and sometimes even lead to referrals for jobs! While in a job interview, you are being asked questions the majority of the time, in an informational interview, it is much more of a give and take. You get to ask people in positions that you might aspire to hold one day questions about how they got there, what they enjoy, what challenges they face, and what advice they would give to someone looking to work in their field.
How can I find people to reach out to?
The first step to setting up an informational interview is searching your network for someone (or several people!) to reach out to. I recommend tapping into your personal network which could include mentors, family, and friends. Share with them your professional interests and inquire if they know of anyone who might be open to having an informational interview with you.
Students in Georgetown’s Biomedical Graduate Education (BGE) programs can also connect with the Office of Career Strategy and Professional Development to inquire about alumni in their field of interest who have indicated an interest in speaking with current students or other alumni.
I also encourage you to search LinkedIn, both your connections, and the wider network. Try searching for people in a company you aspire to work for, in a role you think you’d be interested in having. You can also search for your Georgetown graduate program in LinkedIn to see where individuals with similar training backgrounds have ended up.
What should I say when I reach out?
Once you have found one or a few people to reach out to, you will need to send an email or LinkedIn message. If you have never met this person before, it can feel daunting to write this message. Just remember, many people are actually very happy to have these conversations!
If you are not connected with someone on LinkedIn, you will need to send them a request to connect before you can message them, unless you have premium membership. I highly recommend taking the opportunity to add a note when you do this. The text for this note is limited to 300 characters, so I would advise saying something like what I have written below:
LinkedIn Message Template
I am a student at Georgetown University studying [program.] I would greatly appreciate the opportunity to speak with you regarding your career path toward [insert their field.], as it aligns with my professional interests. I look forward to connecting.
Now, once you are connected with someone on LinkedIn, or if you are just writing an email to someone, here is a framework to follow and a template you can use: The Introduction – The Connection – The Ask. First, introduce who you are and what you are currently doing. Then, explain how you found this person’s contact information or what lead you to search for someone in their position on LinkedIn. Lastly, be very clear that you are asking to meet (or speak over the phone) with them.
The Introduction – The Connection – The Ask
My name is [Your name] and I am a student Georgetown University studying [program.] I received your contact information from [person who connected you] as [he/she] is aware of my interest in the field of [field this person works in.] OR I came across your profile while searching for professionals working in the field of [what field this person works in].
As I explore my options for the next step in my career (OR for a position upon graduation,) I would greatly appreciate the opportunity to learn from a professional in this field. [If possible, add something specific about the person's work that you found interesting, i.e. a research paper they contributed to.]
Do you have any availability in the next few weeks to discuss your career path over coffee or on the phone? I understand you may be very busy at this time, and appreciate your time in reading this message. I look forwarding to hearing from you!
Check out Caleb McKinney's 5 Tips for Informational Interviews blog for more information on informational interviews, including sample questions!