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Email template for requesting an informational interview from someone you never met - Lara L. Schenck

Email template for requesting an informational interview from someone you never met


I am currently organizing some career development workshops as part of my research at Georgia Tech with DataWorks and we are discussing informational interviews a.k.a. “coffee chats” next week. Informational interviews are a way to learn about an industry, a particular job or company, and more while also building relationships that can help you and others in your career. It can feel kind of slimy and weird to get in touch with people to just ask for advice, but remember for them, it’s an opportunity to give back and an opportunity for them to network as someone who might be hiring or have connections to people who are hiring.

A particularly hard part about this, at least for me, was writing “cold” emails. I spend probably a dozen or more hours writing and re-writing the same email every time I contacted a new person for informational interviews as I was learning about PhD programs and deciding if I wanted to apply. In this post, I share an email template that I used for the writing and re-writing these emails. Hopefully it can help you get a head start!

This template is for emailing someone who you’ve never met who is working at a place where you’d like to work or doing something you’d like to do, for example, if you found a job post you are really interested in, you could look up someone on LinkedIn who works there and use this template to contact them and learn more about the company or the position than what you see in the job post.

Hi (name of person),

I am (current thing you are doing). I am interested in (thing you want to do), and I was wondering if you would be willing to speak with me for a 30 minute call sometime about your experience and to share any advice as I (thing you are working towards, emphasize growth).

In your (place where you learned about them e.g. LinkedIn or their website) I noticed that you (something unique about them that shows you did your research). I am determining whether to (something you want to find out from the conversation related to the fact above), and I am curious to know more about your experience (doing thing related to what you want to find out).

I would really appreciate speaking with you, but I completely understand if it’s not a good time!

Thanks, and hope to hear from you soon!

(Your name)

Here is an example of the template filled out (actual email I sent to a PhD student in a program I was interested in):

Hi (Name),

I am applying to graduate school this year to pursue a PhD and career in (field). I am interested in applying to (School) and working with (Fake Name), and I was wondering if you would be willing to speak with me for a 30 minute call sometime about your experience and to share any advice as I begin working on my applications.

I noticed on your CV that you came to the PhD journey after some years in industry, and I think it would help me to hear about your experience. Here is my CV – my undergrad is in art, and I have been working as a software developer for about 10 years. I am determining whether to pursue CS or another PhD given my background, and I am curious to hear about your experience with the decision.

I would really appreciate speaking with you, but I completely understand if it’s not a good time!

Thanks, and hope to hear from you soon!

Lara

The email subject could be something like, “New to (field) – chat sometime?” I think mine was “Prospective PhD student – chat sometime?”. If/when you get a response, you can then reply with some of your availability for the 30 minute call.

And of course, update this to reflect your own voice (e.g. remove exclamation marks if that’s not your thing).

Remember that this is hard but it gets easier with practice! Generally speaking, people are really happy to share their experience, and it helps them to hear from folks who are new and getting into the industry. Remember that everyone has done this in their career at some point, and it’s a way for people to “pay it forward”. In time, you will surely be contacted for informational interviews, too.

Also remember that the people you are contacting are probably busy, so it might take some time to get a response. It’s helpful to be proactive with email reminders and creating calendar events for the meetings.