Tools of the Informational Interviewing Craft

Everything you need to be great at informational interviewing

a flatlay of a desktop with tools for informatonal interviewing: a planner, a calculator, an iphone, a pencil

Today we’re talking about the essential tools for informational interviewing. What other tools or resources do you routinely use as part of your informational interviewing process?  Let me know by replying to this email! 

A notebook and a journal 

Orienting oneself in space, time, and the infinitely complex network of human relationships and economic activities is hard. The terrain we are traversing is chaotic and noisy and the only real compass available is your intuition, which can help you chart a coherent path amidst the “noise and haste of the world.” To that end, a notebook and a journal are indispensable tools along your journey. I have an A4+ Leuchtturm unlined journal (kind of like a classic moleskin) which I use for traditional journaling (think “Dear Diary, today was very stressful…”). I also have a B5 square rules soft cover notebook, also from Leuctturm. The notebook I use for daily to do lists and note taking (think Bullet Journal but much less formal and structured).

Ultimately it’s not important what your notebook/journaling set up is, just as long as you have one. There is no substitute for putting pen to paper. Writing will clarify your thoughts and help you figure out the next right step. (And no, I do not think typing on a computer is as effective as writing by hand). 

A LinkedIn account

Ah, LinkedIn. You’re having your day in the sun. According to The Media™ LinkedIn is cool and also The Best Social Network Of All The Social Networks. I don’t disagree. But only because all the other ones are so bad.  

Nevertheless, LinkedIn is your indispensable friend when it comes to informational interviewing. No tool is more powerful for finding out who’s who and what they’re up to.  You can delve into other people’s networks, figure out who they know and leverage that information for warm intros and connections that could change your life. A little diligent sleuthing can help you locate every member of a team you’d like to join, or figure out who the hiring manager is for a role, and who their boss is, too!  

A Google sheet document for tracking your outreach 

Okay, tbh honest, I do not track my informational interviewing process. I just kind of wing it.  That said, I know a lot of people who are super meticulous in tracking who they reach out, the responses they get, any conversations they have, and the ultimate result of those conversations. If you’re the kind of person who benefits from systems and processes, here’s a handy Google sheet template for tracking your informational interviews

Some handy examples of outreach emails for when you get writers block

Figuring out what to say to people (in an email) is hard, especially if you’ve never written this kind of email before. So, for your edification, I’ve compiled a few examples of outreach emails. If you have no clue where to start, these emails can provide a jumping off point, but you can and should deviate from the structure put forth in these emails. The more personal and authentic your outreach is, the more likely you are to get a response. But don’t let the need to write the perfect email stop you from reaching out. Sometimes an email you were a little embarrassed about sending will get you the response you’re looking for. 

A tool for looking up people’s email addresses 

There are several tools online that provide you with people’s email addresses for a fee. Sales professionals often use these tools for lead generation, and you can too.  I like Email Hunter. The premise is quite simple, you enter someone’s name and/or LinkedIn account, and that database spits out their email address or their likely email address.  Don’t be afraid to just try different likely email addresses yourself, either. Usually corporate email address structures are very consistent and easy to figure out.  Think [email protected].

What other tools or resources do you routinely use as part of your informational interviewing process?  Let me know by replying to this email! 

The Era of Easy Money Is Over. That’s a Good Thing. ~ By Rogé Karma for the Atlantic
If you spent most of 2023 going “WTF just happened,” this article may have the answer for you. For the knowledge work job seeker the end of the ZIRP (Zero Interest Rate Policy) upended the status quo. But that status quo had only really been around for a little while, and was pretty poblematic. As the subhead for this article says, “The end of artificially cheap money should herald a fairer, more sustainable economy. Americans just have to survive the transition.”

Salesforce Signals the Golden Age of Cushy Tech Jobs Is Over ~ By Brody Ford and Drake Bennett for Bloomberg
As a companion piece to the previous article, this Bloomberg cover story dives deep into what easy money felt like at Salesforce. Fascinating read but also might make you bitter. I used a “gift” link for the URL so the first five people to click will get free access to the article.

Number Go Up: Inside Crypto's Wild Rise and Staggering Fall ~ Zeke Faux
I’ve only read experts from this book about the crypto bubble of 2020-2022, but from those excerpts I feel confident recommending it. I’ve spent the last several years someone would do a proper job of documenting some of the more ludicrous and outrageous behind-the-scenes goings on from Cryptoland. Forget Salesforce, if you want to see what easy money really does to people, read this book.

New to informational interviewing?

Are you new to informational interviewing? Here are a few articles and resource to get your started:

That should get you started. For more related and adjacent informational interviewing content, visit the Art of the Informational Interview!


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