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Email Informational Interview Requests (with Samples)

By Susan P. Joyce

How to Smartly Accept Emailed Interview InvitationsWhether reaching out to a colleague, old friend, or a stranger, email can be very useful. We are all comfortable using email in business situations where a hand-written note would have been required a few years to a decade ago.

Since these folks are doing you a favor, the best approach is to be flexible -- their schedule and their convenience is primary. If food or drink is to be purchased, you are the person who picks up the check.

Often now, you will find that a phone call, or even Skype or Facetime are preferred to an in-person meeting -- perhaps for you, too. So, a smart strategy is to offer those options in your message unless you are determined to meet in person.

To be most effective, consider the information you are trying to gather and the people you know who might be the best sources of that information -- or those who know someone (or, better, more than one person) who would be an excellent source of information.


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Important Do's and Don'ts for Success

First some basic do's and don'ts to help you succeed.

Do's --

  • DO VERY CAREFULLY PROOFREAD your message before you hit that "Send" button!
  • DO keep the messages short and on-topic, particularly to people you don't know.
  • DO be flexible and cooperative -- this person is doing you a favor, so make it convenient and easy for them to help you.
  • DO make it clear that you are not asking for a job.
  • DO follow up if you don't get a response to your first message.
  • DO send a thank you to anyone who speaks with you or refers you to someone else (even if that connection doesn't happen).

Do NOT's --

  • DO NOT send these messages from your work email account or make a call from your work phone or phone number. That could cost you your job.
  • DO NOT include a copy of your resume.
  • DO NOT be negative about your current employer. You are simply looking for information to enable you to move forward in your career.

Both people you already know and those you don't will often be happy to help you, as long as you communicate gracefully and professionally.

Sample Messages

Following are 4 examples, depending on the situation, plus an example of a follow up message.

1. Emailing Someone You Know to Ask for an Interview

Sending an email to someone you already know should be easier and less formal than with someone you don't know. But, still treat it as business communications. Be polite and professional because this message may be forwarded to someone else you could interview.

Subject: Catching Up and Collecting Information

Hi [friend’s first name],

Hope all is going well in your world!

I am considering a career change and exploring career alternatives. Working as a [what you do] at [where you work] for [number of years] has been great, but I'd like to grow my skill set and expand my horizons.

So, I’m exploring opportunities with new employers [or in a new field/industry -- name of field/industry, or working with customers you want], hoping to learn more about [skill set(s) you want, industry you want, customers you want, or whatever your goal is]. Given your wide experience and network, I would love to get your take on [whatever you specified earlier in this paragraph].

If you have some time to spare in the next 3 weeks, it would be great to get together for a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, even lunch or dinner (my treat!). Give me a couple of date/time options that would work best for you, and we'll find a time to connect.

If you're too busy to get together now, a short (15 or 20 minutes) phone call would be a great, too. Just let me know the best time and phone number for you.

I'd love to catch up on what's happening in your world and also have an opportunity to pick your brain about this topic. As the Beatles sang so many years ago, "We get by with a little help from our friends."

Thank you so much for your assistance on this. Please let me know how I can help you.

Regards,

[Your name]


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2. Emailing Someone You Know to Ask for a Referral

Often this is much easier to do in person, as at the end of the informational interview. But, if the person lives too far away or is otherwise unavailable for an interview, this message requests referrals to people working at your target employer who you could possibly interview.

Subject: Need Assistance with an Introduction

Hi [friend’s first name],

Hope all is going well in your world!

Working as a [what you do] at [where you work] for [number of years] has been great. But it feels like time to move on to a new [employer, career, or industry]. Given your vast experience and excellent network, I hope you can help me connect with a few people who can help me learn more about [these employers or this field] I am considering. My goal is to set up 2 or 3 (or more) informational interviews with these folks.

I’m focusing my exploration on [employers in the location or name of field/industry] for opportunities as a [job title] or a [job title]. Since you know that [location or field] so well, I would greatly appreciate your help in learning more by introducing me to anyone you know who works [in your target field or for one of the employers].

If you have some time to spare in the next 3 weeks, my goal is to spend 15 or 20 minutes discussing how the organization works -- the culture, style, opportunities, hazards, and future for employees of the [organization or field]. I won't be asking for a job -- only for information.

I've heard great things about [these employers or these jobs], and learning more about them will be very helpful. I am particularly interested in an introduction to people who work [at any of these employers or in any of these jobs]:

  • [Employer A name or Job Title A]
  • [Employer B name or Job Title B]
  • [Employer C name or Job Title C]
  • [Employer D name or Job Title D]
  • A [similar employer or someone doing a similar job] you recommend considering.

If you could copy me on the email, that would be very helpful. Or, forward the response to me when (if) someone agrees, so I am able to contact them, in context.

Feel free to include my LinkedIn Profile [provide your Profile's link] in your introduction and a short introduction about me that includes my years of experience as a [what you do] at [where you work] for [number of years], and that I’m interested in learning more about [their employer or their industry/field]. I promise not to send them a resume unless they request one.

Give me a call or send me an email if you have any questions

Now, let me know what I can do for you!

Regards,
[Your name]

3. Emailing a Stranger WITH a Referral

If you have been referred, someone has given you a head start on making a connection with this person. Be sure to prominently mention their name in the subject of your message as well as in the body, as shown below.

Also, be sure to send a thank you to the person who gave you the referral, even if you were unable to set up a meeting with the person they referred you to or if the meeting happened but didn't prove to be useful.

Subject: [name of referred] Referral for Informational Interview

Dear [Mr. or Ms. Last name],

When I told [name of person giving the referral] that I wanted to talk with someone very experienced and knowledgeable about [the employer, job, career, or industry you want to learn more about], [he or she] immediately offered your name and suggested that I should speak with you. [First name of referred] also indicated that you might be willing to help me learn more about [the topic].

I am seriously considering making a change from [what you do now or where you work] to [the topic you want to discuss]. Before I make that change, I need to understand much more about what is involved. My goal is to learn the culture, style, opportunities, hazards, and future for employment in this field. As an acknowledged expert in this field, I would love the opportunity to discuss it with you.

If you have some time to spare in the next 3 weeks, I hope that you can meet me for a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, even lunch or dinner (my treat!). If your calendar is too crowded, I could stop by your office for a quick (20 or 30 minutes) discussion. If that's not possible, a 15 or 20 minute phone call would work, too. I appreciate any time that you can share with me.

I promise -- I am simply collecting insider information. This isn't an unsubtle attempt to market myself for a job. I won't even bring a copy of my resume, unless you think it would be helpful for the discussion.

Thank you very much for agreeing to provide this help. I greatly appreciate your kindness and generosity!

Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you in the future!

Sincerely,
[Your full name]
[Your current job title]
[Your non-work phone number]


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4. Emailing a Stranger WITHOUT a Referral

This is a genuine "cold call" message, and probably the least likely to succeed. But, that doesn't mean you should not try -- just try very carefully and selectively. You don't want to build a reputation as a nuisance or spammer.

At most, try contacting someone twice. If they don't respond after the second contact, move on.

Particularly in small employer organizations, don't reach out to more than two or three people in the same company within the same one or two months, especially if they are in the same function, location, or department. You have a longer leash in large employers, but proceed with caution when people may be working closely together.

Subject: Informational Interview Request

Dear [Mr. or Ms. Last name],

My name is [your name]. I am a [what you do], and I am reaching out to you to request a very small bit of your time (as little as 20 minutes) for an informational interview. My goal is to learn as much as possible about [topic you want] because I am seriously considering moving my career in that direction -- a big step for me.

I am seriously considering making a change from [what you do now or where you work] to [the topic you want to discuss]. Before I make that change, I need to understand much more about what is involved. My goal is to learn the culture, style, opportunities, hazards, and future for employment in this field. As an acknowledged expert in this field, I would love the opportunity to discuss it with you.

If you have some time to spare in the next 3 weeks, I hope that you can meet me for a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, even lunch or dinner (my treat!). If your calendar is too crowded, I could stop by your office for a quick (20 or 30 minutes) discussion. If that's not possible, a 15 or 20 minute phone call would work, too. I appreciate any time that you can share with me.

I promise -- I am simply collecting insider information. This isn't an unsubtle attempt to market myself for a job. I won't even bring a copy of my resume, unless you think it would be helpful for the discussion.

Thank you very much for agreeing to provide this help. I greatly appreciate your kindness and generosity!

Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you in the future!

Sincerely,
[Your full name]
[Your current job title]
[Your non-work phone number]

5. Follow Up Messages

If you receive no response to your first message, above, sending a single follow-up message can be very productive.

Do wait at least 2 or 3 business days before sending this message. If you sent the first message in the morning, send this one in the afternoon (and vice versa). DO include your original message as an attachment to this message.

Subject: Catching Up and Collecting Information

[Use the same salutation as you used in the first message],

Understanding how very busy you are, this message is a follow up. I hope you can spare a bit of your valuable time (as little as15 or 20 minutes) to talk with me about your experiences [as what they do or in their field] . I'm trying to make an informed decision for my next career transition, and your perspective would be extremely helpful.

Attached is my original message. I know how challenging it is for an email message to make it through the network filled with hazards, and how full your inbox must be. But, I hope that this message gets through and that you have the time and interest to help me.

You would, of course, be doing me an enormous favor, and I would be happy to reciprocate in the future.

Thank you for your time and consideration!

Sincerely,
[Your full name]
[Your current job title]
[Your non-work phone number]


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Finding Email Addresses

Hopefully, if you know the person, you have their business card which should provide their current email address.

If you are emailing someone you don't know or haven't contacted in quite a while, you may not have their current email address handy. LinkedIn can be a very good source of contact information.

If their LinkedIn Profile does not contain contact information, but you are connected via LinkedIn or you have one of the "premium" (paid) accounts, send them an InMail using LinkedIn's messaging system.

If someone recommended the person to you, ask the recommender for the person's email address. Or, worst case, do a search in Google or Bing to see if you can find their current email address.

Bottom Line

These days, email can be an effective way to communicate, with friends, colleagues, and even with strangers. Use these sample email messages as the basis for your messages to friends and strangers to gain the opportunity for more people to talk with in informational interviews. If you are employed, avoid putting your job at risk by using your personal, rather than work, email account and using your personal phone. For more information, read To Be Hired, Be Reachable.

More About Informational Interviews:


About the author...

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt.org. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.


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Guide to Effective Informational Interviews:

How to Conduct Effective Informational Interviews:


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