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If you’re just beginning to consider the nurse practitioner profession or are an established NP thinking of switching specialties or employers, making a bold career move can be scary, especially if you have to invest time and money or if you have a family to take into consideration. In spite of scouring the internet and mulling it over in your mind, you may need a little more insight into this uncharted territory before you can confidently make a decision. If this is you, consider conducting an informational interview.

Unlike a traditional job interview, informational interviews are less formal and can be a very valuable resource when you’re in a career change limbo; and although their objective isn’t specifically for the purposes of landing a job, when executed properly, they certainly have the potential to lead to one. Because they present both a great networking opportunity and a chance for you to gain an insiders look at a role you want to be in, it’s still just as important of a meeting, so you need to bring your A game.

Here are four tips for ensuring informational interview success.

Make the right connection

The goal in asking someone for an informational interview is to not only get a “yes” but to connect with the best source of information as possible. Start by making a list of facilities you’re interested in working for either presently or in the future. Keeping in mind that you’re likely not going to get a “yes” from the CEO of a large hospital system (here are some other ways to break through at a large hospital system), spend some time seeking out who the best person would be to contact based on your specific goals and needs.

For example, if you’re considering a new speciality and simply want to gain more insight, ideally you should connect with someone who works both for your dream facility and in your dream position, however, one or the other will suffice if you can’t find someone who does both. On the other hand, if you want to find out what you can do to be considered for a future position at a facility that’s not hiring, it’s beneficial to find whomever is in charge of hiring APPs for the practice. Don’t forget to look for possible connections you may have such as from your NP program, a mutual friend, or a former place of employment.

Master the ask

Asking someone for an informational interview can be a little awkward, especially because you’re essentially asking this person to give their time to something that is more of a benefit to you than to them. Intimidation aside, the key to getting a yes is in a short and sweet approach.

Research suggests that helping others is actually a key to one’s happiness, so break the ice by asking outright that you’d love this person’s help. Keep your message clear and concise, while also communicating why you’re reaching out and why you want to meet with this person specifically. If you have a personal connection to this individual, it’s beneficial to mention it as well. Be considerate and flexible with what you’re asking and most importantly, even if you are looking for an NP job, don’t make it seem like it, as this will likely result in a negative response. Here’s an example: 

Dear [Contact Name]:

I am hoping that you will be able to help me. I am looking to gain more insight into what it’s like working as a neonatology nurse practitioner at XYZ Hospital as I have been considering switching specialities and know that your facility has one of the best NICUs in the region. I have very much admired your career path ever since we finished our nursing program together at ABC University. 

I can only imagine how busy your schedule is, so I would greatly appreciate the opportunity to have 20 – 30 minutes of your time to chat about your perspective. I am available to meet you wherever is convenient for you and am also available by phone, if that works better with your schedule. 

I look forward to the opportunity to speak with you. Thank you for your help.

Sincerely, 

[Your Name]

Don’t be discouraged if you don’t receive a response right away. Remember that people are busy. Give the individual a week to reply before reaching out again to follow up. At such time, reiterate that you would greatly appreciate the opportunity to talk with them for a short conversation.

Ace the interview

You certainly don’t want to waste someone else’s time, let alone your own; and because an informational interview such an amazing opportunity to be seen by prospective employers, you want to be sure you’re just as prepared in spite of the more relaxed nature.

Before your meeting, brush up on the company or the specialty you’re interested in (like these 9 things you’ll want to know about an employer before signing on) and take the time to find out as much information about the person you’re meeting with by reviewing their LinkedIn profile, company biography, etc. Just as you would for a job interview, have a list of all of the questions you’d like to ask the person and be prepared to answer a few questions about yourself, including what your career goals are.

If your interview is taking place in person (which is ideal), it’s smart to take a copy of your resume as you never know when someone might ask for it. 

Follow Up with a Thank You

If the interviewer asked you to send your resume or provide any other information, be sure to do it right away. Otherwise, follow up with a thank you note within one to two days after your interview and be sure to stay in contact by connecting on LinkedIn and let them know when you’ve settled upon a decision or accepted a position.

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