BUILD YOUR BRAND
Now that you know what an informational interview is, let’s talk about how to secure one!
The five steps to conducting an informational interview include:
Step 1: Identify professionals to contact
Step 2: Prepare for the informational interview
Step 3: Request the informational interview
Step 4: Conduct the informational interview
Step 5: Follow up
Questions... questions... questions...
From your research, develop a list of questions about the industry, the field, or the individual you will be interviewing. It is inappropriate to ask about specific job openings. Develop your questions with the purpose of gathering information about your intended industry or field.
Plan enough questions for a 20-minute, 30-minute, or 60-minute interview. Meaning – put your priority questions first and be prepared for a contact to give you just 20 minutes. Occasionally, things go so well that the interviewee will extend the conversation, so you should have extra questions ready just in case.
1) In preparing for this interview, I found that this industry is expected to grow and expand job opportunities nationally. Would you say that holds true for the metro NY area?
2) I read in last week’s Long Island Business News that Suffolk County has created a program to attract biotech firms to relocate here. How do you feel this might this impact your business in the future?
1) In preparing for this interview, I learned that more companies are requiring project managers to have the PMP certification. What is your perspective on this development?
2) I saw the report on television last night that Wall Street firms are announcing new layoffs, yet I have also noticed several job postings in these firms. How will these layoffs impact internships and the entry-level job market in finance?
1) I noticed on your CAN Mentor profile that you do freelance counsulting. How do you market yourself to potential clients without seeming too pushy?
2) I've read a few blogs where people in your field say that one of the best things about this kind of work is the freedom / lack of structure. Do you share this sentiment? Would people who like structure automatically be a poor fit for this type of work?
Initiate the Conversation
Before you contact a CAN Mentor, take some time to prepare. Consider the following:
|To Do List||Strategies for Conversation|
|Take time getting to know someone.||
Where possible, read about him/her in advance.
meeting with your CAN Mentor, do your research by viewing his/her company profile
and LinkedIn profile. Take some time to learn about the person’s background. What,
if anything, do you have in common?
What most piques your interest about this person?
|Consider your interests.||What do you hope to get out of this conversation? What do you want to learn?|
|Determine your goals.||What would success look like for you? Can you articulate your goals and what you need to achieve them?|
|Share your assumptions, needs, expectations, and limitations candidly.||Ask for feedback. Be open to honesty and critique.|
|Discuss options and opportunities for learning.||Share your progress (past and current). Consider what additional assistance, guidance, or support might be most useful. Be specific.|
Cold contacts are people with whom you have absolutely no relationship, nor contacts. Be professional in your e-request, and use the subject line of your email to explain briefly who you are and what you want.
May 20, 2017
Mark Steppe, Esq.
River, Song, and Obsidian Partners
1313 Avenue of the Harbors Suite 4444
Silver City, CA 12345
Dear Mr. Steppe:
I am a student at California Western School of Law, and am beginning my third trimester. Labor law has been of interest to me since I took a class in that subject as an undergraduate student. Your firm has an outstanding reputation in that field of practice.
My area of concentration in law school will be labor law. I would appreciate the opportunity to meet with you briefly to discuss your specialty. I am especially interested in your views regarding public vs. private employment experience. Any further insights you have would be greatly appreciated.
I will contact your office the week of June 2 to set up a mutually convenient time for this informational meeting.
Once a day, date, and time is confirmed, email the contact a confirmation.
Subject line: Confirming our meeting Tuesday, January 22nd @ 3:00pm
Thank you so much for your willingness to talk with me via telephone on Tuesday, January 22, 2012. As we agreed, I will call you at 3:00pm at this number: 555-555-1212.
I will reconfirm our meeting two days before, and at that time will send you a short list of my questions for discussion. If something comes up and you must reschedule, please contact me at email@example.com or my cell phone: 555-555-5555.
Thank you again for your willingness to talk with me. I look forward to speaking with you.
[Your first name & last name here]
Stony Brook University
Don’t forget to reconfirm two days before the meeting and INCLUDE your list of questions so the interviewee has time to prepare.
Warm contacts are people you know and people who know you through a close connection, such as the parent of your best friend. Warm contacts will be more likely to give you time if they have it. When writing a request to a warm contact, refer to your relationship in the subject line and use professional language in your email.
(this is a warm contact since the individual is a member of the Career Advisors Network (CAN) – therefore s/he is already interested in sharing advice with SBU students):
Dear Mr. (or Ms.) [Last Name]:
I am a sophomore at Stony Brook University. I found your name in the Stony Brook Career Advisors Network (CAN) database, and I would like to learn more about your profession.
I love my psychology classes, and am now taking PSY 222: Adolescent Psychology. I would like the opportunity to speak with you about how you got into the field, and get your perspective and advice as I consider my own career path in psychology.
Would you be willing to set aside 20 minutes for an informational interview? I am open to further correspondence by email or phone, or in person if you prefer.
Feel free to reply to this email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or call my cell phone: 555-555-5555.
Thank you in advance for your consideration.
[Your first name & last name here]
Stony Brook University
Hot contacts are people closest to you; those who know you well and will absolutely make time to help you. When writing to a hot contact, you may use casual language; however, the purpose of your e- request is still professional, so don’t assume you can simply put in your subject line something too casual, such as “Hey,” or “Yo, I need your help.”
(Nicoletta is your best friend Roberto’s older sister)
Roberto just told me that you work for an international development organization. I had no idea that your career is so closely aligned with my interests! Roberto may have told you that I’m majoring in anthropology with a minor in international relations. I’ve studied abroad in Tanzania and have also done research with a professor whose regional specialty is South America.
That’s why I’m writing to you today. I’m hoping you could find some time to share advice with me about my career path and my plans for next summer. I’m thinking about another study abroad experience, or perhaps an internship, and hope you’ll be able to help steer me in the right direction.
Nicoletta, I would so appreciate your time. Let me know if we can work something out.
While conducting your job search, you may need to call recruiters directly to get more information about the application process, recruiters may contact you, or you may have a phone interview. Friendly and professional phone etiquette will leave employers with a great impression of you, and it will make you feel more confident in interacting over the phone.
1) Practice what you want to say before you call.
Make sure your words are clear and that you’re speaking slowly and confidently.
2) Call in a quiet location, preferably using a landline.
Try to avoid distractions or bad reception.
3) Be prepared to leave a voice message in case no one answers.
Having it written down is a great idea. When leaving a message, include your name at the beginning, the reason for your call, and your phone number.
4) Have your resume and cover letter on hand when you call.
Be prepared! Keep a pen and paperwith you to take notes on names, numbers, and instructions.
5) Ask the recruiter if they have time to speak to you.
They may want you to call back at another time or to come in for an appointment. Be considerate of their time.
6) Let the recruiter choose when to call you.
End your conversation with “Please give me a call at your earliest convenience.” Don’t presume and ask them to call on your schedule.
7) Don’t take any other calls while you’re speaking to a recruiter.
Never place them on hold. You want to show that you’re serious about the position and that you are prioritizing this phone call.
8) Return calls within 24 hours.
If a recruiter calls you, return the call promptly.
9) Send a thank-you note.
Whether your call was a request for information or a phone interview, always send a brief thank-you note through email or postal mail.
Email has become an important tool for employers and students alike, and it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll need to send emails throughout your job search. When applying to jobs and communicating with potential employers through email, it is necessary to maintain a sense of professionalism.
Your relationship to the recipient will determine how you greet him or her.
For someone whose name you do not know, use Dear Hiring Representative:
For someone whose name you know, use Dear Mr. or Ms. [name]:
For someone you know personally, a simple Hello [name], is fine.
Never start an email with Hey or skip the greeting entirely.
In a first email, you always want to be as formal as possible. It is best to use Ms. instead of Mrs. or Miss for a woman if you do not know her marital status. If a person is a Dr., it is impolite to address them as Mr. or Ms. Make an effort to find out a person’s title so you can address them properly.
If a recruiter signs an email with just their first name, you may address them as such; if not, continue to use their title and last name.
Always put a colon after your greeting and skip a line before starting your message.
Name the files [Your Name, Resume] or [Your Name, Writing Sample]. You may want to ask the employer for his or her preference in document format, so that you can send files as .doc or .pdf accordingly.
Use a closing such as Yours Sincerely, or Best Regards, before signing your full name.
Your signature is a great place to include your contact information after your name. Include your phone number, email address, and postal address.
Check for spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Don’t let one or two typos reflect poorly on your communication skills.
If a recruiter asks you to provide timeslots of your availability, give them as many options as possible. You want to work with their schedules.
You should reply within twenty-four hours, as most people check their email several times a day. Expect to follow up with a phone call.
Use an appropriate email address. It should consist of just your full name. You never want to contact an employer from an email address like email@example.com.
Be formal and respectful. Always use basic manners (please and thank you) and never assume you can begin using improper punctuation or informal tone just because a recruiter might do so.
Convey your interest. Even though you are using professional language, you want a recruiter to sense your enthusiasm and friendliness, not to come across as demanding or uninterested. This can be difficult through email. Read your message out loud and pay attention to your word choice and tone.
Never use emoticons or abbreviations. LOL, BTW, TTYL, and other lingo are unacceptable in formal emails. These are unprofessional and for texting only.
Be mindful of the To, CC, and BCC. If a recruiter includes someone else in their message, it may be appropriate to address them in your response. Other times, it may be unnecessary to reply to all the recipients. Use your judgment and be considerate of the recipients’ time.
Never type in all capital letters. Using all caps or excessive exclamation points may leave the impression that you’re shouting.
Why Do You Need LinkedIn?
Make sure your profile picture is appropriate—it should be a high-quality headshot of just you, ideally wearing a nice blouse, shirt, or jacket. It’s not uncommon for students to take a picture specifically for their LinkedIn profiles.
* TIP*: At job and internship fairs, the Career Center operates a LinkedIn photo booth—we can take your LinkedIn headshot for you!
You have a profile! What's next?
Find your peers, supervisors, and mentors on LinkedIn and send them requests to connect!
You should always accompany your request with a personalized message—this is even more highly recommended if you’re trying to connect with someone who may not remember you clearly at first, or if you are trying to connect with a potential employer. Let the person know how you met and what organization/connections you have in common.
To find people you know, you can search by name or email address, or you can look at LinkedIn’s recommendations for you (see “People you may know” in the Connections dropdown menu). LinkedIn will find people with common organizations and contacts, and you can sort through them and add those you know.
While on Facebook it’s common for people to add someone they don’t know or someone they’ve only spoken to a couple of times, on LinkedIn, you want to be careful and choosy about who you include in your network. Your connections have the potential to connect you to people who can get you interviews. However, other connections—perhaps people you don’t know at all or people whose profiles are not professional—might act to your detriment.
Add coworkers, supervisors, mentors/mentees, friends, and family, but don’t add someone you don’t know personally or professionally.
How well do you know about that person’s professional goals? How well do they know yours? Think about these things carefully before reaching out to anyone. If someone you don’t know requests a connection, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask them how you two know each other and why they want to connect with you.
Update your status about once a week.
Don’t forget—LinkedIn isn’t Facebook. No one wants to know what you had for lunch. Instead, post about your industry of interest. It could be news, advice, a question, or an opinion. Sharing articles that are relevant to your industry is a great way to start a dialogue with your connections and show your knowledge and activity with the industry. However, do not get too controversial with topics. Remain professional at all times to avoid conflict. LinkedIn is not a space for arguments to develop.
Join your university group and the groups of any organizations you might belong to, as well as any groups in the industry you want to enter. Participate respectfully and intelligently in group discussions about industry topics—this is a great way to make new contacts and to get your name known to employers!
How to use LinkedIn
Now that you have a great profile, make sure to keep it updated and to be active in conversation! Add new contacts as you meet new people, and pay attention to the connections your contacts have. If someone you know is connected to an employer at your dream company, don’t be afraid to ask for an introduction. Give the URL to your profile to employers or mentors you talk to and put it on your resume near your contact information. Even if they don’t add you, it’s a great place to show them your professionalism and your experiences and qualifications. A neat-looking, professional profile can go a long way in the interview process. Aside from showcasing your experiences, it shows employers that you understand how to create an online presence, which is a skill highly valued by companies.
Making a lasting impression and standing out in a large population pool requires both a firm handshake and a business card. A business card not only helps you get noticed, but it also gives your network contact information and a professional perception of you. Additionally, it is important to brand yourself—meaning to show how valuable you are as an individual, but also what goods and services you can offer. Having a business card is a great way to show potential employers what you’re interested in and what you have to offer. However, it isn’t just about giving out your business card; it’s about the cards you receive in return. You’re expanding your business network and increasing your chances of succeeding in the professional realm.
Information you should include on your business card:
Name. Use your full name or shortened version (ex: Joseph- Joe). No gimmicks, no nicknames.
Current university with major(s) and minor(s)/degrees you’re working towards
Graduation date. This is important for employers to know your availability.
Candidate for internship doing... OR Candidate for entry level position in... It is important to let employers know what you’re looking for. This aspect is important for branding yourself as well.
City, State. Street address is not necessary.
Phone numbers (work, home, or cell). If you decide to have more than one, indicate which is which. Ideally, a cell phone number is fine. Make sure that your voicemail greeting is appropriate.
Email address. Keep the email address you use professional. Aim for an address that simply includes your name and/or initials with no numbers. Steer clear of FancyDisc0Person239103 @unprofessional.com; johnjsmith @gmail.com looks much more professional. Do NOT use your Stony Brook email; for some employers it shows that you are unavailable for employment.
- A logo/slogan can make your card more memorable.
- Any memberships you have (sororities, frats, student groups, etc.)
- A link to your LinkedIn profile (or other professional website)
- QR code – This shows that you’re ambitious enough to seek out something new and implement it to your benefit; it also means that recruiters can contact you for your specific talents and start conversation already knowing some of your background. QR codes are not aesthetically pleasing, but they offer a way for employers to use smart phones to read about you or visit your website on the spot. You can use kaywa qr code to easily make a code. Remember to always make sure that a QR code works.
- Honors/Awards – This information is more appropriate for your resume. But if you’d like to also use the back of your card, a brief list of honors/awards is okay.
- Location – If you are open to relocating for your next job, it may be best to leave out your physical address completely.
- You can use Google Shortener to shorten long URLs. Your business card will appear neater and have additional space. Contacts might respond by thinking of you as internet savvy, but the shorter URL is easily forgotten. If you shorten a link, make sure you include the name of the site that the link is for.
- Always proofread your business card. You want to make the best impression, and a typo will not let you achieve that. Make sure that all your contact information is correct and up to date.
- Font should be at least 8 point as to be legible for all who will be reading your card.
- As you’ll see below, make sure to keep a “safe zone” on your business card design.
In case your printer or vendor’s printer is off—even by a centimeter—no crucial information
will be lost.
- Get creative! You don’t have to go over the top; a simple, clean design works, too. But having a nice design and typography doesn’t hurt, either.
Business cards are a great investment. But many college students are on a tight budget. Here are some sites that offer affordable prices for business cards:
If you’d prefer to make your business cards at home, you can use Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator. Microsoft Office also has business card templates.
For more information on business cards and to get some inspiration, see Bestbusinesscard.net
Now that you have the basics of business cards down, you are ready to network! You are free to network at job fairs, while visiting family and friends, during chance meetings while on the bus, train, etc.—anywhere, really; you never know who you’re going to meet!
As a general rule, when networking you want to give your card at the end of the conversation. You could say, “It was great speaking with you. Here is my card; let’s stay in touch.” This should encourage the other person to give you his/her card too, but if not, kindly ask for it. Avoid casually handing out business cards; this makes a negative impression.
If you are at an interview or in a meeting setting you want to give your business card at the beginning. You might say, “Thanks for taking the time to meet with me; here’s my card to hold on to.”
Remember, the business cards can’t do all the work. It is up to you to make a lasting impression, while the cards add to your presence. Pollak advises, “If you’re dreary and boring and unfocused and your card is fabulous, it’s not going to help," she says. "You have to be the best representative of yourself and your card is simply your information." Your business card should be a physical reminder of a good first impression.
You can find networking tips here, or come down to the Career Center if you want more help preparing.
DO NOT INCLUDE THE STONY BROOK UNIVERSITY LOGO – Based on business card guidelines, Stony Brook University students may not put the logo on their business cards. SBU can be represented in type only.
We offer a variety of ways for you to learn from alumni and friends about careers: Formal mentoring programs, Alumni Association LinkedIn Group page, alumni career articles in Stony Brook Matters, and alumni virtual panels.
Register on Handshake under Career Events for upcoming networking workshops. After learning networking how-tos, we'll arrange introductions for you with alumni.
Network with Alumni on LinkedIn
LinkedIn’s Alumni page provides high-level insights about alumni of your school, as well as access to the more detailed professional profiles they've shared.
Additional Ways to Learn From SBU Mentors
Virtual Alumni Panels
Visit Handshake for upcoming virtual events.
The Career Communitites Mentoring program takes place from October through April and will require 4-5 meetings. Applications to participate start in late August and early September.
If you are interested having a one-time career conversation (micro-mentoring) with a SBU Mentor, this is the program for you. A SBU Mentor is a professional who volunteers his or her time to network, provide advice, and provide career insight for students and recent alumni.
This program is about making connections and sharing information – not about asking for jobs/internships. Attend one of our workshops to learn more about this program.
Stephen Lee BA '82 & Jonathan Cruz '15
Errol Cockfield '94, Stephanie Brumsey '09
The Stony Brook University Alumni Association and the Career Center organizes a large-scale networking mixer to help promote and facilitate connections between students and alumni; and also provides opportunities for alumni to alumni to network. This event usually takes place in March.
Making educated career decisions can be difficult at any stage of career development. This Alumni Career section is intended for Stony Brook University students and alumni to learn career knowledge and get advice from experienced alumni, working in various career fields, about lessons learned from their career experiences.
Tour Your Future Series offers alumni the opportunity to attend alumni employer site visits for ONE DAY. Alumni hosts will talk about their organization, industry, internships, and job opportunities. This is a chance for alumni to get the inside scoop and literally get their foot in the door. See Handshake for future tours.
Select past tours: CA Technologies, Bloomberg, The Federal Drug Administration (FDA), Google