I’ve had the best time reading my email lately. Trust me, I know that’s a pretty rare thing to say—it’s just that I’ve been asking tons of awesome people to go on informational interviews with me, and they’ve almost all said yes.
Wondering how to score some sweet informational interviews of your own? I know, asking can be hard—after all, you’re proposing that busy and important strangers take time out of their schedules to meet with you.
Luckily for you, I’ve recently perfected the art of the ask. And since this information is so valuable, I’ll obviously share it. Plus, I’ll explain how to tailor the email to make it your own. Before you know it, you’ll love scrolling through your Gmail as well.
Dear [first name],
My name is [your name], and I’m a [job title] who works in [your location]. I’m reaching out because [reason why you want to speak with this person]. I’d love to learn more about [two or three things you’d like to learn from the person].
I’m sure you’re busy, so even 20 minutes would be appreciated.
Thanks so much,
Here’s what that looks like once you’ve filled it in:
My name is Aja Frost, and I’m a college student who’s interning in the city until mid-August. Your career path is very inspirational to me: I don’t know very many people who have worked in marketing at Google, Facebook, and Apple. As an aspiring marketer, I’d love to learn more about which skills you’ve used the most and what you’d expect from an entry-level employee in your department.
I’m sure you’re busy, so even 20 minutes would be greatly appreciated.
Let’s do a line-by-line analysis so you can see what each accomplishes.
In the salutation, I like to use the person’s first name. “Dear Jane Doe” or “Dear Ms. Doe” sounds too stilted and formal to me.
The opening line should contextualize your message. Since I’m a student, I have a built-in advantage—professionals are usually pretty open to helping out the young and inexperienced. But, hearing from someone a little higher up can be really flattering, too—so no matter where you are on the corporate ladder, include your job title, employer, and location.
My name is Carrie Smith, and I’m a senior product manager at Unison Healthcare in Tampa, Florida.
The next line should explain why you’re writing to him or her. Go ahead and make it flattering. While I’m not suggesting you lay it on really thick, there’s got to be a reason you chose this specific person, so include it.
I’ve previously said:
“You have my dream job at my dream company...” and “I was impressed to see the transition you made from finance to content strategy...”
After that, you’ll want to include some very specific questions. Too many people show up to informational interviews with no idea what to ask, resulting in wasted time for all parties involved. If people see you’ve got a concrete goal for the meeting, they’ll be much more likely to say yes.
I always, always end with the same line: “I’m sure you’re busy, so...” This statement shows you know you’re requesting a big favor. And just acknowledging that fact improves your chances for success.
The Extra Mile
You should definitely research people before you ask them to interviews. Not only will knowing their backgrounds help during the actual conversation, but you’ll usually find tidbits you can drop into your ask to make it more compelling. After scrolling through a CEO’s recent Twitter history, I found a post raving about a Brooklyn taco spot. When I asked her to meet me, I proposed going to that very taco spot. She agreed with far more enthusiasm than she likely would’ve if I’d asked her to meet at Starbucks.
On a different occasion, I saw a content strategist I was interested in contacting had spoken on a panel about inbound marketing. So in that email, I wrote, “I’d love to learn more about inbound marketing best practices and how to use location-specific strategies.”
By making a little extra effort, your request will be much more impressive.
Best case scenario: Your target answers, you make plans to get coffee, and you have an awesome and productive conversation. But what if he or she doesn’t answer? I usually wait a week, then send a follow-up email.
Dear [his or her name],
I hope you’re having a great week! I wanted to follow up on my request for an informational interview. As I explained in my previous email, [reason why this person has impressed you] and I’d love to hear about [questions you’d like to ask]. I’m happy to meet whenever and wherever is convenient for you. However, if your schedule is too full, I completely understand.
You’d be shocked at the number of people who don’t respond to your first query but do get back to you after the second. What I’ve learned from that is that most people aren’t ignoring you, the first email just arrived at an inopportune time to answer and was then forgotten.
However, if you’ve sent the second email and you still hear nothing, move on to your next prospect. There are plenty of people who will talk to you, so don’t spend too much energy chasing down one person.
After you’ve taken my template and made it your own, I’m confident you’ll be going on tons of coffee dates of your own. Good luck!