Welcome to Chapter 5. Here we’re going to cover the second part of the REACH OUT step, Extending An Invitation.
This is the point in the process where it’s time to reach out and invite one or more professionals to meet with you personally, or on the phone, for an interview-style conversation.
Inviting An Engineer for An Interview
For the sake of simplicity, I’ve chosen to explain the rest of the entire informational interviewing process as though you’re pursuing and interviewing just one engineer (a male).
I’m doing this for one reason, and one reason only. It will make the writing less clunky if I use pronouns for a single gender instead of trying to flip back and forth.
A Few Personal Opinions
Since I brought up gender, I want to share a few personal opinions on this topic.
First, the world of engineering needs more young people, both men and women, building careers in engineering (and in other STEM disciplines).
I’m adamant about the importance of attracting both genders, and supporting this need is one of my goals behind ENGINEERINGCAREERLAUNCHER.com.
Second, no matter what your gender is, I strongly recommend that you pursue interviews with both men and women. By doing this, you’ll open yourself up to hearing, and learning from, a more diverse set of perspectives.
I have no doubt that interacting with both genders will help you to build a stronger set of conversational skills. Plus, it’s more representative of how things are in a typical company, and out in the world in general.
Here’s my bottom line…
I believe you’ll be doing yourself a significant disservice if you don’t make an effort to conduct informational interviews with both men and women.
Invitation via Email or the Phone?
Once you have his name (and correct spelling) and his contact information, it’s time to create and extend an invitation.
Personally, due to the busyness of today’s world, I prefer to use email to reach out in my first attempt to invite someone to meet with me.
An email let’s him consider and manage my request on his terms, instead of being caught off guard by an unscheduled phone call from a stranger. Of course, to do this you must have his email address.
Writing the Email
Your email invitation should be clear, concise and professional.
Keep in mind that your email invitation is essentially a sales letter, since you’re hoping to sell the engineer on the idea of meeting with you.
This means you must include a clear request, enough background information to prompt him to want to help you, and a call to action.
Sample Email Invitation
Here’s a sample script to use as a starting point for your own email invitation. Note: I’m using my own name to represent the engineer you are writing to.
Subject: High school student seeking information/input about engineering careers
Dear Mr. Gallagher,
My name is John Doe and I’m a senior at Olathe East High School where I’m enrolled in the pre-engineering and STEM curriculum.
To help me better understand career options in engineering, I’m currently reaching out to talk briefly with some experienced engineers.
Max Parks, a mutual friend, thought you would be a good person for me to visit with about engineering, and the technical work you do.
Would you be able to meet/talk with me for 30 minutes or so sometime during the next two to four weeks? Currently, I have good flexibility to meet during weekdays and early evenings.
Thank you for considering my request. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Sincerely, John Doe
Following my signature, I would also include my phone number and personal email address.
Key Points: Your Request, CTA, and Background Info
As you read through this the email, did you notice the request, my call to action (CTA), and the important background information I included?
Here are a few important points to keep in mind when writing and sending your invitations:
- First, do some high level cursory research on the engineer and his employer after you have his name, employer’s name, job title, and contact info. Always make sure to capture the correct spelling of his name during your research.
- As you craft the email, realize that the subject line is what will prompt him to open the email. Therefore, it needs to arouse some curiosity, and a desire, on his part to open and read it.
- Keep in mind that your email is competing with tens, if not hundreds, of others in his Inbox. Getting him to open and read your email is the first hurdle on your road to getting an interview.
- Brevity is important. Minimize the amount of text as best you can, while still including your important points.
- Using plenty of white space will make the email more readable and will tend to draw the reader into your content.
- Always demonstrate your willingness to be flexible regarding when to meet.
- The professionals you’ll be contacting will surely be leading busy lives at work and at home. The more flexible you are, the more likely you’ll get a “yes” from them.
You may have noticed a few other specific things I did in the email to help ensure I would get a reply and an interview:
- I identified myself in the Subject line as a high school student. This told him immediately that I’m not looking for a job.
- This lowers the pressure on him and increases the likelihood he’ll agree to meet. He knows that all I want is information, and maybe some advice.
- My request is an easy and comfortable one for him to fulfill if his schedule will allow it.
- My request for help, which I put in the Subject line so it would be visible immediately, is an appeal to a typical human behavior, to help others in need, especially young people.
- I dropped the name of Max Parks, who we both know. A referral is a great connecting device and should increase the chances that I’ll get the interview.
- I greeted him professionally as Mr. Gallagher, and I closed with a courteous thank you and signature.
- I mentioned I’m in pre-engineering, and I used the acronym STEM. This suggests to him that I’m serious about engineering and that our conversation will probably have some depth to it.
- In my experience, I’ve found that making this connection for the reader is appealing and important to technically-oriented professionals such as engineers.
- Finally, I ended with a call to action by including the sentence, “I look forward to hearing from you soon”.
- Also, I included my phone number and email address to make it as easy as possible for him to contact me with his reply.
The idea of making the entire process as easy as possible for him can’t be emphasized enough. Everything you do should have this goal built into it.
Easy, Fun and Great Experience
I hope all of these bullet points and tips don’t scare you away. They shouldn’t. It isn’t as complicated as this might make it seem.
All you need to do is to write a short, succinct, and professional email, and you’ll be in good shape.
I should also add that this email invitation process is excellent practice for the real world of work that full-time engineers, and all STEM professionals, experience everyday. Why? Because email is a huge part of today’s organizations.
Important Final Note for College Students and Full-timers
If you’re a college student or full-time employee, instead of a high school student like in my example, an important addition to these guidelines would be to add a sentence that lets the recipient clearly understand that you aren’t looking for a job, you’re only seeking information. This will make it much more likely that he will agree to an interview.
Next Up: Scheduling The Interview
Now that you’ve extended one or more invitations, it’s time to move to the next interview step, which I call CONNECT & LEARN. In the next chapter, we’ll learn how to follow up and get the interview scheduled.
If desired, you can view this entire post in the video below:
Question: Are there are any concerns or fears that you have about extending interview invitations? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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CONDUCTING INFORMATIONAL INTERVIEWS