3 Informational Interview Etiquette Pointers

By: Don Oehlert
Sr. Managing Partner, eCareerCoaching.com

We translate your Unique Value Propositions into an exciting, vivid business premise. 

“Different is better than better.”
– Richard Gray


Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán on Pexels.com

Make sure you are clear when you ask for the meeting
that you consider them an expert in their field

That you want to speak with them because you want to better understand their industry, their company, and their role in it. People appreciate being thought of as experts in their chosen field. In fact, most people will be quite flattered that you asked them for their help. Most people are just like you – they want to help other people as best they can. 

Having said all that, we cannot stress enough that you should ask them for only a 20-minute meeting. Also arrange to meet in a convenient, close-by (for them) location. Make it as easy as possible for the other person whenever you can.

If you cannot make it close to them for some good reason, ask to make it a Zoom, a SKYPE, Microsoft Teams, or face-to-face video call. When you are on a video call, you can read each other’s facial expressions and reactions as well as body language as things unfold.

You will gain two benefits on a face-to-face video call. You will:

1) See whether they’ve tuned you out

2) Get practice for your future Positional Interviews that may start with a video call (especially these days – due to the COVID-19 pandemic).

Like with your USP, practice makes you better.

At some point, you may want to share with them some of the information you’ve gathered in your Google searches and other readings, and see whether they can confirm any or all of it.

When the Informational Interview meeting starts,
hand them your handbill and networking business card

Note that your brand image should match, and reflect on each piece of paper. Let them know in no uncertain terms that you are not expecting them to offer you a job. You just want to learn more about their career path and their company.

Do not ever bring your resume with you to an Informational Interview, and do not ask the interviewer for a job. Most of the time these folks are not in a hiring position and will feel a lot of pressure (and a bit of guilt) if you ask them for a job and they can’t offer you one.

Understandably so. Reverse the roles, and with complete objectivity, reflect on how you’d feel if you were in their shoes.

Only provide a copy of your resume if they ask you for it. Make sure you get their business card as the meeting draws to a close, so you can email them your resume.

Oh, and send them a hand-written thank you note as well. They’ve just provided you with some excellent information that you can get in no other fashion. The least you can do is take the time to send a hand-written thank-you note.

Be extremely polite and professional
at all times during these meetings

Put yourself in their shoes – only ask questions you would be willing to answer for a new friend.

Remember that, when you are re-employed, you’d like to pay it forward as well. Please treat these people as you’d like to be treated.

At the end of the meeting, do these three things:

  1. Ask for their business card, so you can send them a thank you note and a resume if they requested one.
    Don’t forget to let them know you’ll keep them in the loop as well. Then when you do land, send them a quick email that reminds them they had a part in the successful conclusion of your job search. You want to thank them again for their assistance.
  1. If things went really well, ask them if there are 3 other people they know that you should speak with at their company, or at other companies they may know. Also ask (if it went well enough) if they’d be willing to make an introductory phone call, or send an email right then and there to those 3 people in your name.
  1. Ask this person whether they’d feel comfortable recommending you for a role that you’ve identified at their company. If they are not, feel free to ask what would stop them from recommending you. Do not be defensive when you ask. You just want to learn why, so you can answer a question they may still have or if you can clarify a point you made.

If you were respectful of their time, and if you were able to provide them some value as well, it’s likely they’ll be more willing to help you over the long haul.

Another reason to keep an updated tracking sheet is that you want to let them know how things went with any contacts they recommended to you. When you land, let them know. Especially if your landing came as a result of a meeting they suggested. Make it a nice gratitude-laced email, and it helps them feel good about helping someone else.

We all like that.


To get to know yourself better from a personal standpoint, please drop us an email for your free copy of our “Finding Your True North” instrument. In it are 36 questions that will help you understand what makes you tick, so that you can better prepare for a job search, or decide whether you should go for that promotion.

Email <fytn@eCareerCoaching.com>, or ask for it at <eCareerCoaching.com/contact>.

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