Informational interviews are how I landed in the office of a previous law clerk for the U.S. Supreme Court. That’s a dream situation for any attorney. In short, informational interviews are meetings between students and an employee inside a company where a student wants to work. The secret is that informational interviews feel much more like casual conversation, because the student spends 90% of the time asking questions that are not necessarily job-specific. Use this email template (originally drafted by Ramit Sethi and slightly modified by me) to set up an informational interview:
To: Mark Parker
From: Kyle WineyIn
Subject: Penn State student — would love to chat about your work as CEO at Nike
My name is Kyle Winey. I’m a ’10 grad from Penn State (I know you were a few years before me) and I came across your name on our alumni site. [Explain how you came across their name.]
I’d love to get your career advice for 15-20 minutes. I’m currently working at XYZ Company, but many of my friends work in retail and each time they tell me how much they love their job, I get more interested. [The first sentence explains what I want. Most people are flattered that people want/value their advice.]
Most of them have told me that if I’m interested in retail, I have to talk to someone at Nike. Do you think I could pick your brain about your job and what motivated you to choose Nike? I’d especially love to know how you made your choices after graduating from Penn State. [The phrase “pick your brain” is one of the best ways to ask for advice and flatter, and “Penn State” reinforces shared bond].
I can meet you for coffee or at your office…or wherever it’s convenient. I can work around you! [The busy person is more important than you. Treat them accordingly.]
Would it be possible for us to meet? [A busy person can simply reply to this with a “yes” — perfect. Note that I didn’t ask for the time/location as that’s too much information in the first email.]
Asking for Introduction to Decision Maker
Networking boils down to reaching the “Decision Maker,” the person who determines whether you’re hired or fired, rejected or promoted. If you don’t know the Decision Maker directly, you want someone to introduce you. That person is called the “Connector.” Use this word-for-word email template (originally drafted by Ramit Sethi and slightly modified by me) to ask the Connector for an introduction to the Decision Maker:
To: [Mr. Connector]
From: Kyle Winey
Subject: Following up from prior talk
Hi [Mr. Connector],
I hope all is well.
If you recall, we spoke a few months ago when I was exploring new career opportunities in information security. [Remind the busy person how you know each other].
I was browsing the Acme Career site the other day and the Research Scientist role caught my eye. I think it’d be perfect for me considering my work on insider threat-related projects at Current Company. [Note that the focus of this email is asking for recommendations, not directly asking for a job. The Connector understands you’re looking for work and doesn’t want to be put on the spot. If he wants to talk to you about the position, he will.]
From what I remember, it sounds pretty similar to the work you do at Acme. By any chance, do you know of anyone there that you think I should chat with? I’d love to learn more about the role so I can see if it’s the right fit for me.
If not, no problem—just wanted to keep you in the loop. Thanks again for all your help!
All the best,