Networking & Informational Interviewing

Networking is the most important part of your job search.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, up to 80% of jobs are found by candidates or filled by employers through networking.  It is critical that you develop this skill as it is one you will use throughout your life.

Use Networking to:    

  • Explore careers, research industries, companies and specific jobs
  • Build a community of  people with whom you share professional interests
  • Uncover  job  leads
  • Gain advice on improving your chance of getting hired

Sources for Your Network

  • Start with who you already know including parents and family, friends, former coop employers and co-workers, neighbors, acquaintances, faculty, advisers, fellow students, community and religious groups
  • Attend Employer Engagement and Career Design events such as Career Fairs, Industry networking events and Employer and Alumni presentations to make new connections.
  • Join Professional organizations, especially campus chapters and attend conferences. This is a great way to stay current in your field and meet other professionals
  • Are you LinkedIn? LinkedIn is the premier professional networking site. Join for free and start connecting. See our LinkedIn page, join the Employer Engagement and Career Design group and Northeastern Alumni Group and attend LinkedIn 1 Build Your Profile and LinkedIn 2 Build your network workshops offered weekly both on the ground and virtually.
  • Web and print material– professional journals, newsletters and websites can help you identify people who are active in the field
  • Northeastern Online Alumni Directory- There are more than 200,000 alumni listed, most of whom would love to help a fellow Husky. You can access the Online Directory through the Alumni Relations website.

TIP: When looking for alumni to connect with, be conscious of their titles and levels in their organizations.  Remember, you can gain insights from people in companies of interest even if they don’t share your target job function.


Resources to Help You Make Connections and Build Professional Relationships

  • Careerx e-mini courses- Click on the screens to watch 5- 6 minute recorded webinars on Networking and Informational interviewing
  • Your Professional Introduction PDF-a grab and go PDF that provides tips on developing your introduction and sample scripts. Download the PDF
  • Networking for Introverts a blog article from the Huffington Post for those who find networking challenging!

The Power of Informational Interviewing

Informational interviewing is a powerful way to build and expand your professional network, learn more about your chosen field or industry, uncover potential job leads and clarify your career development goals.

 It’s Not as Scary as You Think!

  • Most people like to give advice and feel good about helping others. In addition, people often enjoy talking about themselves, which is what an informational interview gives them a chance to do.
  • Most successful professionals have conducted informational interviews when they were starting out, and many will be willing to do the same for you.
  • The worst case scenario is that your contact is too busy to meet with you, or never responds to you.

Possible Topics for Discussion

  • How your major/concentration relates to a specific career and/or industry
  • Preparing for a specific career
  • Companies and positions that might be a good fit
  • What the organizational climate is like at a particular company
  • Making a career change and learning the most appropriate way to navigate a new career field

TIP: Although the purpose of these conversations is to gain advice and suggestions and not to ask about a job, if the individual you're meeting with asks if you're interested in a specific job, you can welcome that opportunity to talk about that option.

Contacting Someone for an Informational Interview

By email (samples)

  • If you do not know the person, it is more considerate to make the initial contact via email to avoid the possibility of contacting them at an awkward or inconvenient time.
  • In the email, you'll generally want to explain who you are, why you are contacting this person, and how you found their name. Additionally, give a very brief description of your work/education history and why you’re interested in speaking to him/her, and then request a 20-30 minute meeting to get information and advice about his/her career, field, or organization. Make sure that your correspondence is error free.

By telephone

  • If you already know the person, you can first contact him/her by phone.

TIP: Whether you make the initial contact by phone or email, if you haven't heard back in about two weeks, it is completely appropriate to follow-up. If you don't hear back after the second attempt, move on to your other potential contacts.


Preparing for Your Meeting

  • Research the individual you're meeting with on LinkedIn and look at the organization’s website. You should generally research the career and industry online so that you're up-to-date on issues, trends, etc.
  • Prepare a written list of questions in advance. Remember, you're the one doing the interviewing!
  • Keep in mind that your goals for this meeting are to get information and advice that you can't find online and to make a great first impression. Being well-informed about the individual and his/her field shows respect for their time and makes the meeting more productive.

Asking Appropriate Questions

Decide what information you would like to find out from this person. Open-ended questions stimulate the conversation. Ask questions about job content, career path, preparation, fit and next steps.

Here are some possible questions to ask:

Job content - What are the basics?

  • Could you describe a typical workday or work week?
  • What part of your job do you find most satisfying/challenging?
  • What abilities or personal qualities do you believe contribute most to success in this job?

Career path - How did your career develop?

  • What is the typical career path in this field?
  • How did you get into this industry?
  • What steps did you take to get your present job?
  • Can you tell me about entry-level opportunities in this field?

Preparation - What does it take to be successful?

  • What advice would you give to someone who’s interested in starting out in this field?
  • What do you see as the coming trends in the industry?
  • Do you have any special words of warning or encouragement as a result of your experience?
  • Are there any professional associations and/or journals that you would recommend?
  • Are there any job hunting strategies that you would suggest to enter this field?
  • When do companies in this industry typically do their entry-level hiring?

Fit - Is this a good match for me?

  • What are some of the top qualities that your company looks for in entry-level candidates?
  • Do you happen to know the entry-level salary range for this profession/industry?
  • What would you like to see change in the organization in the future?
  • How would you describe the work environment at your company?
  • What types of projects/assignments do you work on?
  • What are opportunities for corporate social responsibility in this company?
  • How do you see the values of this organization embedded in your work?

Next Steps - How do I follow up?

  • Is there anyone else you can recommend I speak to for additional information?
  • Would you mind if I sent you my resume to review?
  • May I send you a LinkedIn connection request?

The Meeting

  • Be ready to lead the meeting since you asked for the informational interview, and be considerate of time constraints.
  • Arrive on time in an outfit appropriate for the organization, and be ready with your 60-second professional introduction and questions.
  • Do not ask for a job. Remember, you indicated that you were looking for advice and information when you contacted them. By asking for a job, you risk embarrassment and ruin credibility.
  • Bring a resume, but present it only if asked.
  • Keep track of the time. Stay longer only if invited to do so.
  • Before leaving, ask for a business card and ask if they can refer you to anyone else to speak with.

Next Steps/Cultivating Your Network

 

  • Follow-up with each referral and/or new contact you receive from the people you informational interview with. Make sure to get their permission to reference your meetings when applying for a position.
  • Write a thank you note after each informational interview and email it within 24 hours. Express your appreciation for the assistance you received and mention one or two points that you learned during your conversation.
  • After your meeting, jot down some notes (name of your contact, date, and useful information or advice, etc.) to remember what you talked about and to help you write a thank you note.
  • Try to stay in touch with your contacts every few months by sending a friendly email. For example, you could see how your contact is enjoying his/her summer, holiday, etc., and fill him/her in (briefly) on some relevant academic or professional updates that you have. You could also be in touch if you notice that they've written an article, or were recently promoted, etc.
  • Finally, when you secure your new position, select your major, or have chosen your career path, notify the people you’ve spoken with; they'll want to hear what happened and know how you are doing.

Contact Info

P: 617-373-2430
F: 617-373-4231

Students: careers@northeastern.edu
Employers: recruiting@northeastern.edu

Appointments

M-Th 8:30am-6pm
F 8:30am-5pm

103 Stearns Center
420 Huntington Ave
Boston, MA 02115