No matter how much the business world changes with the advancement of technology, one aspect remains unchanged – the informational interview. I empathize with recent college graduates who not only face student loan debt, but also have to break into the job market at a time when the national unemployment rate continues to stay above eight percent. More young adults are jockeying for the same positions in an effort to simply “break in” to their field of interest.

This past summer we had a handful of college students stop by the office for informational interviews. We always delight in the proactive efforts of young adults that are still in school but who are also looking ahead to make sure that they are taking the right classes and courses that will set them up for future success. With that in mind, here are some tips for making the most of any  informational interview.

1. Do a little homework. (Not a lot, just a little.) Since this is not a formal interview for an actual hirable position, the conversation can be more general but be sure to read up about the industry and the company you are visiting. Demonstrate that you’ve put in some effort before walking in the door, and you will not only leave a lasting impression, but it shows you are serious and making a concerted effort to educate yourself outside of the classroom.

2. Guide the discussion. Don’t be afraid to ask a “dumb” question – this is the time to do it. It’s wise to prepare and bring a list of questions regarding the industry and company with whom you are speaking. You set up the appointment so it’s essentially your responsibility to drive the conversation. Ask questions that will actually help you in terms of charting a course for your own future success. You may even find out that what you thought you wanted as a career isn’t exactly what you had in mind.

3. If you were me…. This is always a great way to harvest information and gain advice about how to set up a path towards finding a job after school. Whomever you are speaking to, young or not-so-young, has made a lot of choices to get to where they are today. They’ve also made some mistakes. You can always glean useful tips from taking a quick walk in someone else’s shoes.

4. Manners matter. This may seem obvious, but it’s worth sharing. Be on time (be five minutes early). Turn off your cell phone before you walk in the door. When in doubt, dress up. And always send a hand-written, personal thank-you note afterward.

See you in the trenches!