TL;DR: To make the most of an informational interview, you need to know how to approach it. Here’s a roadmap to help you successfully navigate one.
What is an informational interview?
An informational interview helps you dive deeper into a role or expand your network to learn about a particular career path, employer, or industry. These meetings usually happen during the initial stage of looking for work, when a job seeker evaluates a wide variety of options to find the best fit for their qualifications and values.
You can seek this type of interview at any experience level. For example, both recent college graduates with no work experience and senior workers with decades of employment history can benefit from it.
“Informational interviews are important because everyone’s careers are different — everyone has context that makes their situation unique. By connecting with people who have similar backgrounds, education, and life experiences as you, you’ll be able to glean more accurate advice and insight,” said Sarah Doody, founder & CEO of Career Strategy Lab.
Here are some advantages:
- It can provide information that helps your career. You can use this meeting to get insider information about an employment area and to help you identify whether a career trajectory suits you and what you need to do to pursue it.
- It gives you a chance to develop a valuable contact in an industry, profession, or company that interests you. If all goes smoothly, you can build a relationship with the subject of your interview, which could benefit you in the long run. For example, you can gain a valuable ally to seek a reference from or inform you about an attractive job opportunity.
- It can boost your confidence. Although an informational interview is unlikely to be as challenging as being interviewed for a job, it has many similar features. You can also use it to practice for a job interview by becoming more confident when discussing your career with a stranger.
- It can help you get a job. While you’re unlikely to find work based solely on this meeting, it can provide you with essential resources, like an industry contact and valuable career information. In the future, you can leverage these resources to get the job you want.
Preparing for the interview
Preparation is everything when it comes to an informational interview.
“To increase the chances someone agrees to an information interview with you, it’s imperative that you are strategic with how you ask them and have a plan for the actual interview if they say yes,” said Doody.
She emphasized that it’s important to keep certain things in mind when approaching someone for an informational interview.
“Break the ice, be specific with what you want to learn, and remember that an interview doesn’t need to be synchronous.”
Here are additional some tips to prepare for a successful informational interview:
- Use various sources of information, such as self-assessment tools, government labor resources, company websites, and employee reviews to find an occupation that works for you.
- Use research to pick the best person to interview.
- Prepare a formal, polished interview request.
- Prepare for the interview.
Keep your interview subject informed.
What to do during an informational interview
Use the following questions as a guide to preparing your own for the informational interview:
- Are there any other frequently used titles for your job? If so, what are they?
- What are the skills most hiring managers look for when hiring for your position?
- What are the educational qualifications most employers prefer for this job?
- Are there volunteering or internship experiences that can improve my eligibility for this job?
- Tell me about the typical duties you perform each day.
- Who has had the most influence on your career?
- What are the skills you use most often while working?
- Are there any essential educational or professional qualifications I need to do this job?
- Tell me about the advancement opportunities for this profession.
- Is there anything that frustrates you in this profession? If so, what is it?
- Is there personality or behavioral indicators for achieving success in this field?
- What are the technologies you use most frequently in this job?
- In this field, what is the usual chain of command?
- What are the average employee benefits in this profession?
Here’s how to optimize your performance:
- Show your appreciation for the interviewee’s time and expertise.
- Behave professionally and be polite.
- Wear a watch and keep track of the time.
- Prepare to answer a few questions.
After the interview: What’s next?
After completing the interview, here’s how to get the best from your experience:
- Send a thank-you email. Send your thanks to the subject of your interview for the interview experience. In this communication, express your gratitude for the information the professional shared.
- Develop a professional relationship. Make an effort to develop your relationship with the professional you interviewed. Your performance at the meeting and your thank-you email should lay the groundwork for your relationship, so try to maintain the conversation that naturally progresses from your post-interview correspondence.
- Document what you learned at the interview. Try to do this as soon as you complete the interview, so you do not forget the discussion. Specifically, write down any expressions or buzzwords your interview subject repeatedly used so you can use them in your job application documents.
Even if you’re not actively looking for a job right now, conducting informational interviews can help you identify and target desired future employers. Visit the Glassdoor blog for more career information, tips, and resources.