“Dear Pete: How do you make an information interview request? There’s someone I’d like to contact, but I’m not sure what to say in my email.”
This is definitely one of the most common information interview questions I get. Here’s the bottom line: people have to trust you, respect you, and like you BEFORE they will help you, refer you, or hire you. Therefore, the goal of any initial communication with a new networking contact is to build trust and rapport. Keep the following tips in mind when you make an information interview request:
- Use a great email subject line. This increases your chances of getting a quick, favorable response. You can use something like “Referral from Dave Jackson at XYZ Company” or “Question from fellow Penn State Alum.”
- Use a customized, attention-grabbing first sentence. For example, you should reference something specific about the person’s work that inspired you to contact him. If the person feels like you are sending the same exact email to 100 different people, you are much less likely to get a response. You could also highlight something you have in common with the person (i.e. a mutual acquaintance, a shared affiliation, etc.).
- Write concisely and professionally. It’s amazing how often people send me emails with major spelling errors, typos, run-on sentences, unprofessional email addresses, etc. A poorly written email kills your first impression. On the other hand, a concise, well-worded email is surprisingly rare and immediately makes you look credible and intelligent (i.e. worth talking to).
- Be passionate and confident. No one likes a “Debbie Downer.” No matter what your situation is, portray yourself positively by being enthusiastic and ambitious.
- Ask for ADVICE. Everyone loves to share their “secrets for success,” and most people are flattered when you ask for their advice. Do NOT ask for a job or for help finding a job.
- Respect the person’s time/schedule. Let the other person determine if/how he wants to speak to you. Be flexible.
Here is a template you can adapt based on your background, who you are contacting, etc.
Given your success and experience in ______ (insert the person’s company/field/industry), Dave Jackson at XYZ Company suggested I contact you.
Over the last ____ (insert the period of time), I have ______ (insert 1 relevant achievement or a BRIEF description of the work that you have performed). However, I’m very interested in learning more about _____ (insert the person’s company/field/industry).
Would it be possible to have a brief conversation with you? It would be great to get some of your career advice and to learn more about your work.
I’m sure you are extremely busy, so I could meet you at your office or a nearby coffee shop, etc. Let me know what is most convenient for you! Thank you for your time and consideration.