The Up Side of Outreach

Internal referrals are 5x more likely to get an interview and 12x more likely to be hired than online applicants.  Developing an advocate within your target company is critical to your job search success.  Conducting informational interviews is a great way to begin forming relationships with alumni and industry leaders.

Steve Dalton, author of the 2 Hour Job Search, outlines an effective, action oriented strategy to reach out and land those informational interviews.  As a refresh, begin by creating and prioritizing a target company list.  Next, be bold!  Reach out.

Your request may look something like this:

RE: Mays MBA Seeking Advice

Dear Dr. Quinn,

I recently spoke with Dr. Morgan Ross, a family friend, and he recommended that I reach out to you. I am currently an MBA student at Mays Business School, Texas A&M University.  My experience as a clinic volunteer drew me to public health and I would be very interested in learning more about your experience as a health advisor in a rural setting.  Please let me know if you have 15 – 20 minutes to speak with me in the next couple of weeks.  I have a flexible schedule, so please tell me when would be convenient for you or if you would prefer to speak on the phone. 


Once you secure the call, make the most of the time you have scheduled.  Research the industry, company, and individual.  During the conversation, keep your questions focused on the other person and not on yourself.  Steve Dalton recommends asking questions that are flattering and fun to answer: Trends (changes in industry/business?), Insights (best lessons, most surprising…), Advice (how to prepare), Resources (next steps to recommend).

Sample questions may look like this:

  • It seems that more companies are requiring project managers to have the PMP certification. What is your perspective on this development?
  • In my experience as a XXXX I noticed YYYY, do you see a similar trend?
  • From my research, I understand that the role of brand manager involves XXXX and YYYYY. Would you tell me more about ZZZZZ? (seek clarification)
  • Thank you for your time and advice! I would like to continue to build on this conversation.  Would you recommend another person I can speak to?

Really think about what drives the questions you wish to ask.  Use those drivers to craft effective questions:

  • Bad: Can you tell me about your career path?
  • Better: I see that you moved from a small boutique agency to a very large one.  What key strategies and action steps enabled you to make that transition?
  • Bad: What does your average day look like?
  • Better: How are projects assigned within your team?  How is your time divided between individual work and actively working within a team?

The goal of information interviews should be to gain advice and insight while showing your passion, interest, and knowledge.  And remember, always follow up with a thank you note to express gratitude.

Though it may be uncomfortable reaching out, go for it!  Building advocates will certainly help you navigate through and advance in the job search process.

By Sarah Bugh
Sarah Bugh Associate Director & Career Coach