Looking for a job? Save yourself the turmoil of navigating clunky online application systems, and instead get hired over coffee. Informational interviews are the single most effective and underutilized tool in a job seeker’s arsenal. Making time for a quick meetup with a valuable contact can lead to a job in a number of ways: that contact might remember you when a position opens up at their workplace, they might refer you to someone who’s hiring, or they could agree to serve as a reference for you.
Here’s how to get in touch with the right people who could direct you to your dream job.
Finding that first pro to meet with can be tough. But if you dig deep, you can unearth some connections to pros in your field. To get started, scour your personal rolodex for leads. Think of extended relatives, friends’ parents, or old college friends. Facebook and LinkedIn come in handy at this stage.
Perfect your cold call
When you’re ready to reach out for an interview, make sure that initial email is pristine – no typos or grammatical errors allowed. Keep your request brief, and be sure to mention in the opening line that you were referred by a mutual acquaintance. It’s as simple as this:
“Hi Tom, I was referred to you by Jennifer who mentioned you could be a great resource for telling me more about the marketing landscape. I’m a recent grad and was hoping to learn more about your experience. Are you available to meet for 20 minutes over coffee next week?”
Don’t be late
When the day of your meeting arrives, get your shit together and be on time. And by on time, I mean five minutes early. Oh, and buy the coffee.
Have questions prepared in advance
The informational interview, although informal, is still an interview. That means you should have questions prepared in advance. Do your research on your interviewee’s role to guide your questions. Here are some good ones:
What are some of the skills that have set you apart in your career?
What attributes are employers looking for in new hires these days?
Tell me about the culture of your company.
What is the one thing you had wish you’d known when you were looking for a job fresh out of college?
Don’t fuck up the follow up
Just because the interview is over doesn’t mean your job has concluded. A few hours after your meeting, email the contact thanking them for their time. This is a great opportunity to ask if they have two more contacts that might be willing to meet with you. Most importantly, if this contact sends you more leads, FOLLOW UP RIGHT AWAY. I recently met a young professional for coffee and forwarded her information along to a long-time colleague who was looking to hire in the coming months. But this young lady completely dropped the ball and lost the opportunity, making me look bad in the process.
Pay it forward
In ten years, when you’re climbing the career ladder, be sure to set aside time for emerging professionals like you once were, and agree to coffee with clueless job seekers to pay it forward.