The power of the informational interview

InterviewOne unique advantage students have while still in school is the ability to conduct informational interviews. Whether the ultimate goal is to get a job or secure funding from investors, there is no better way to establish connections and get the information you are looking for than a face-to-face meeting.

Here is the good news. Getting a job interview these days may be especially difficult, with hundreds of applicants vying for a limited number of opportunities. The same is true when approaching potential investors. Angel and other equity investors see hundreds of pitches from entrepreneurs seeking an investment. And whether it is a job interview or investor pitch, in each case the person seeking the appointment wants something. That creates a series of expectations and pressures on the part of the corporate executive or investor.

And that is precisely the reason why the informational interview is such a valuable tool. Why? Because in seeking the interview, your goal is one thing – information. You are not asking for a job. You are not there to request an investment. You are there as a student with a goal of learning and are only seeking information. To be clear, of course at some point in the future you may change that focus to go after a specific job opportunity or eventually ask for an appointment to make an investment pitch. But not now. Now you are only setting an appointment for an informational interview in order to learn more about the company or to find out the investor’s goals and investment requirements.

Limiting your interview solely to that mission accomplishes three things. First, it makes the appointment much easier to get. Business executives are generally receptive to being interviewed by college students, and are typically happy to share their career story and information about their company. Second, it removes the pressure and urgency and creates an entirely different set of expectations and “vibe”. You are not there asking for anything other than information, information that will be extremely valuable when you do want that interview sometime down the road. Finally, in addition to the information you have gained, you also now have a new networking contact for the future. And you did all that simply by conducting an informational interview.

As with any business appointment, follow the rules. Dress appropriately, arrive in advance of the appointment time, be respectful of your interviewee’s schedule, and always follow up with a thank you note.

Try it! You will be surprised at what you’re able to accomplish with a simple informational interview.

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