An informational interview is usually a bit more casual than a typical job interview. However, your goal is to make a good impression and ideally establish a professional relationship with the person across the table.
That means you should follow all of our advice about eye contact, body language, and etiquette as you would in a job interview. You should also take pains to avoid common mistakes:
1. Don’t overstay your welcome.
Hold yourself to that 30-minute maximum unless the other person wants to continue.
2. Don’t get too personal.
Sure, go ahead and establish rapport and talk about your mutual contacts, industry trends, the weather, and the movie you saw last night. Just don’t use this as a venting session to talk about your idiot ex-boss, your marriage troubles, or your skin condition. This is a business meeting.
3. Don’t expect miracles.
Don’t walk in clueless and expect the person to explain all of the mysteries of her profession in 30 minutes or less. Show that you’re serious and well-informed and you’re more likely to impress.
4. Don’t act desperate.
Be confident or fake confidence. I know this can be challenging in the midst of a challenging job hunt. However, a confident attitude will help you establish credibility as a smart, qualified candidate. Don’t ask, “What do you think I’m doing wrong?” Instead, keep it proactive. Say, “It’s a tough market right now. What strategies do you think I should try?”
5. Don’t ask for too much.
It’s okay to ask if the person has suggestions about what steps to take — people to contact, events to attend, companies to research. Just don’t push. Be grateful for any leads offered.
I also recommend offering to return the favor by helping the person in any way that you can. You may be able to facilitate an introduction, provide an objective opinion, or spread the word about the company’s new product or the person’s favorite charity.
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