How to schedule an informational interview
Recently I shared some job search tips for lawyers looking for their first legal job or those looking to re-enter the legal workforce. One tool that I have mentioned that can be useful when looking to enter a market is information interviewing.
Here are 12 tips if you are requesting an informational interview and want to respect your interlocutor’s time. (Note: I am referring to the person you hope to speak to as the ‘interviewee’ rather than the ‘interviewer’ because, in an informational interview, you are the person asking questions for information. of the interviewee. Remember that this is not a job interview, in which you receive the questions.)
1. Send a first email or LinkedIn message that:
a. clearly indicates that you are requesting an information interview and on what subject (s),
b. offer sufficient information about yourself if necessary, but as succinctly as possible,
vs. shows how you are logged in or how you came across the respondent’s profile,
D. indicates the time commitment you are looking for (no more than 20-30 minutes!),
e. offers several time slots when you are available but invites the respondent to suggest alternative time slots, and
F. requests permission to send your resume and a list of questions you would like to ask. Follow up with these items only after the person agrees to speak to you, but at least one day before the call.
2. Make sure your posts are free of typos and include an appropriate signature block and a link to your LinkedIn profile. However, don’t fill the person with so much information or a complete application package to the point that it feels like a ‘homework’ just to navigate your application.
3. If you don’t have a response from the potential interviewee, you can follow up, but wait 7-10 days. No one likes a 12 hour follow-up later when you ask for a favor.
4. You can offer to speak by phone or by Zoom, but make it the choice of the interviewee; don’t push a Zoom meeting on someone. Offer to send a calendar invitation. If you’re offering a Zoom meeting, be prepared to send a meeting link.
5. Be prepared to take the lead in the conversation. It’s good to remind the interviewee of your basic background, but don’t waste time repeating your entire CV.
6. Keep the interview information within the time frame you requested.
7. Follow the interviewee’s clues as to how formality or informality your conversation is, but focus on how to treat it like a real interview. This is good practice for a real interview!
8. Take notes if you can, but most importantly, be sure to LISTEN to the answers to your questions. There is nothing more boring than going through a list of pre-established questions when some have already been answered earlier in the conversation.
9. At the end of your interview, ask if there is anyone else the interviewee recommends that you speak with, including anyone they might introduce you to. Ask for their suggestions on next steps.
10. As I recently discussed in The Importance of Authentic Networking, any networking or relationship building has to be a two-way street. Always ask the other person if there is anything you can do to help them. It can be something as small as sharing a link to an article they might enjoy or sharing news from your shared alma mater. Just be sure to ask how you can reciprocate. And ask for permission to keep in touch and ask which method they prefer.
11. Be sure to send an immediate thank you message on the day of the interview. Send any items or reciprocity you promised. Connect with the person on LinkedIn if you haven’t already.
12. If your interviewee is OK with you staying in touch, stay in touch! If you are conducting multiple informational interviews, you may want to consider keeping a spreadsheet with interviewee names, notes about your conversations, and follow-up reminders every few months.
If used correctly, the information interview can be a powerful tool for you in your job search. Good luck!
Ed. Remark: This is the last installment in a series of posts from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. This post is authored by Abby Gordon, Senior Director at Lateral Link, who works with potential attorneys on law firm and in-house research, primarily in Boston, New York and Europe.
Prior to joining Lateral Link, Abby spent seven years as a corporate partner at Cleary Gottlieb, focusing on capital markets transactions for Latin American clients in New York City and the past five years for European customers in Paris. Originally from Boston, Abby holds a JD, cum laude, from Georgetown University Law Center and a BA in Government Languages and Romance, magna cum laude, from Dartmouth College. Abby also worked with the International Rescue Committee as a Fulbright Fellow in Madrid, Spain. She is a member of the Bars of New York, Massachusetts and Maine and is fluent in French and Spanish (and touches Portuguese and Italian). You can check out other articles from Abby here.
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