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Imagine you’re applying for a job or want to build out your network, but instead of people asking you questions, you’re the one interviewing them. That’s what’s known as an informational interview.
The purpose of an informational interview is to learn more about opportunities and people that we’re interested in. We may reach out to an employee at our dream company to grab coffee and learn about what they do. We might reach out to a CEO to ask a few questions about how they got their start and receive career advice. Often this leads to a new connection and a new opportunity. However, the goal is to learn without asking for anything.
Informational interviews are pivotal in developing new relationships and creating opportunities. The hard part is making the initial connection. There are four steps to effectively reach out for an informational interview:
- Do your research
- Find the right contact’s email
- Warm them up
- Send the email
So let’s go over the four steps to make sure our next networking email is top notch and impossible to ignore.
In just 10 to 15 minutes, we can find information about a person’s interests, history, communication style, and — just as important — their email. With this information, we know exactly what to talk about in our email to instantly build familiarity.
Googling their name and company can lead us to their social media profiles, questions they’ve answered on Quora, or articles they’ve written/have been mentioned in. The information we find may end up being crucial for developing rapport with them.
For example, if we take a look at Brian’s about page on his website, you’ll find out that he likes college football. You wouldn’t find that information anywhere else. Now you know to mention something about college football in your email to him.
2. Find their email
In some cases, their email might be readily available on their website, Twitter, or through a Google search. In many cases, we’ll have to do a little more legwork to find their email.
One tool we use that has about a 95% success rate is Voila Norbert.
We simply need to put in their first and last name and the domain of the company they work at and leave the rest of the work to Norbert.
If that doesn’t work, here are three more ways to find an email.
3. Warm them up
The goal of the warm up is to make your name look familiar to the person before sending them an email.
Here are three simple ways to do this:
- Retweet a tweet they’re mentioned in
- Follow them on Quora
- Respond to their questions
The best part is that you don’t need a response. They’ll log in to their profile to see what they’ve missed, and they’ll see your name attached with the value of a retweet, follow, or useful answer.
The moment we’ve been waiting for: when you actually send the email. Here are three things to do in your first email:
Don’t start with “Hi, my name is…” It screams cold email, and they’ll see your name at the end of the email anyway.
Stroke their ego. Humans crave recognition so give them it. Tell them you shared their work or tell them how they had an impact on your life.
Add value (and whatever you do, don’t ask for anything).
The most difficult part is providing value. “Providing value” could mean anything, so here are some examples:
- Feature them in an article you write
- Share a high quality and helpful article or book on a topic of interest. Better yet, buy and send the Kindle version of the book to them
- Introduce them to someone they would find valuable
- The point of your reach-out email is to put their best interest before anything else. You’re not trying to get anything out of the conversation
Here’s an example of a good networking email Brian has received:
I loved your post on Building Growth Teams.*1 I shared *2 it with 3 other friends that I know are facing similar challenges, and they all said they immediately subscribed to your blog.
Your’s and Seth Godin’s *3 writing have been very influential on my own work.
There are two other incredible posts on team building I read recently that you might be interested in: Creating High Performance Teams on Harvard Business Review, and A Study Of The Top 1% Team done by a researcher at Stanford.*4
I hope you enjoy!
Marketing Manager @ Acceleration Partners
Now let’s look at what Andrew did.
Tip *1: Being specific. Pointing out a specific post rather than a generic “I love your work.”
Tip *2: Adding value by sharing their work with others.
Tip *3: Stroking the ego by comparing with a world-renowned author/marketer.
Tip *4: Being helpful. Sharing two high-quality pieces of content related to their interests.
How’s that for a bulletproof networking email?
Follow these three simple steps, and you’re that much closer to writing an effective networking email that no one can ignore.