Whether you are just starting out or looking to transition to a new area of global development, the informational interview is an effective tool for learning about the career paths and employers available, the kinds of skills and experience you will need, and cultivating a network that can help you get there.
While the benefits of informational interviews are widely understood, knowing how to actually ask for them and what to expect isn’t always as clear. Most employers do not have a formal process for conducting informational interviews, so it requires navigating informal channels through personal connections and outreach. Some may be conducted more like a structured interview, but more often they are casual conversations just as likely to happen in a coffee shop or over Skype as in the boardroom.
While no two informational interviews are ever the same, here are five do’s and don’ts to making the most of one.
1. DO leverage your connections
People are a lot more likely to agree to an informational interview if they have at least some loose connection to you. It could be a common alma mater, a mutual friend or having a shared overseas volunteer experience. Busy professionals who may be fielding multiple requests will likely prioritize referrals from other professionals they trust, too. While name dropping can often be in poor taste, make sure you name your connection to the people you reach out to so they are more likely to respond.
Kate Warren is the senior director and editor of careers and recruiting content at Devex. With more than a decade of international development recruitment experience working with international NGOs, consulting firms and donor agencies, she has a finger on the pulse of hiring trends across the industry and insider knowledge on what it takes to break in.
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