Q.I have emailed several people at one publication to ask for informational interviews and have been pretty much ignored. I just emailed, explained my loose connection and asked for a brief meeting to explore job possibilities. Should I take this as a sign not to approach people at this company in this way, or persevere and try to set up interviews with other people at the company?
A. I wouldn't take it as a sign that the whole company is against offering informational interviews, but you might want to revise your approach a little.
First, when you say you asked to meet and discuss job possibilities, it's possible they think you're looking for a job at that magazine right now. If there are no openings or the people you've contacted aren't involved in hiring, they may have just disregarded your email. You have to make it very clear that you're not looking for a job interview. For tips on this, check out my post from last week about the purpose of an informational interview.
Second, be more strategic about whom you contact. Instead of emailing everyone on staff, start with one person. If they can't help you, ask them who they would recommend you speak to, do the same with the next person, and so on. Editors talk to each other, and if they figure out that you're trying to contact them all, it can create the wrong impression – you might come across as desperate or unknowing of the staff structure of a magazine (i.e. you don't know how things work).
Also, you don't necessarily need to keep your focus so narrow: if you're interested in finding out more about a particular company, you can talk to an editor at any of that publisher's magazines, not just the magazine you're interested in working for. And if you'd like to work for a particular type of magazine, say a fashion mag, try all the major titles in that category, not just the one you want to work at.
Finally, when it comes down to the actual process of making contact, this is what I recommend: Email your request. A week later, follow up with another email asking if the person received the first one. In both, acknowledge that you understand s/he is very busy. The following week, follow up with a phone call; don't leave a message – try to get the editor in person – unless you've tried several times and it's clear s/he just doesn't pick up the phone. The best times to call are usually first thing in the morning before editors get wrapped up in things, and sometimes just after 5:00 – many editors work late, and at that time, interruptions (like calls from PR people) have virtually stopped.
Corinna vanGerwen is a freelance editor and writer. She has worked as senior editor at Style at Home, senior design editor at Cottage Life and is the former Canadian Director of Ed2010. She has also held the position of operations manager at a boutique PR agency, where she handled strategic planning and daily operations.