What is an Informational Interview?
A successful jobseeker must be diligent at his/her job search and conducting relevant informational interviews must be on your must-do-to-find-job checklist. An informational interview is an also effective way to build a professional network and relationship with professionals in your field.
An informational interview is NOT an interview to request for a job. It is a network opportunity and an opportunity to know about the company culture. And on what it is – perhaps the best answers around were at the UCLA career center website:
The Informational Interview Allows You to:
- Gather valuable information from industry professionals on career planning and job search strategies.
- Discover the “realties” of a particular career field and what is it really like to work in a given industry.
- Evaluate whether the career is compatible with your skills, interests, lifestyle and goals.
- Receive specific suggestions on how and where to acquire the experience and knowledge required.
- Develop confidence in interviewing with professionals by discussing your interests and goals.
- Gain access to the hidden job market. Over 80% of quality jobs are secured through networking.
- Expand your network of contacts in your field of interest for future opportunities.
- Gain referrals to other professionals in the same field for additional networking.
Usually the informational interviews are informal and friendly, they must be conducted professionally. Consider it your opportunity to make a great impression on this person who will be happily willing to forward your resume to the hiring manager.
Who to approach for Information Interviews
First most important tip: Everyone’s busy. Usually most of us are getting a lot of calls on a “short” informational interview please and we just don’t have the time. Approach your closest network first and ask them if they know of someone in the particular company or field you are interested in. Connect with them on LinkedIn or get introduced through your friend. And here first and foremost thank your friend who has introduced you to this person. Now do some research before requesting an interview session.
Also note that some quick informational interviews can be at the networking events you go to. It is a good idea to look up some of those who would be attending an event you plan to go to, if that is a possibility, or just the general demographics and background of the expected crowd at a networking event. Informational interviews can very easily and amiably be intertwined with networking.
Research before an Informational Interview
Use LinkedIn and Facebook as your online tools for this research
- Do a quick research on the person you are interviewing to know more about his/her area of expertise – look up his/her LinkedIn profile.
- What are his/her expertise, how long has he/she been in this organization?
- What positions has this person held over the past years?
- Does this person have others in his/her network that can probably help you in the long run?
Articles and news on companies
Also look up “in news” articles about the company culture, or new areas of development. It is good to ask about the general “health” and outlook of the organization.
Where to Interview
Options are at the office, or at a coffee house – but usually ask the person you are interviewing on his/her preferred location. Some tips are:
- Info interviews don’t have to be “in the office”. Can be at local coffee house if more convenient for both (@TimsStrategy)
- Often people prefer that you come in to meet them at the office during lunch hour – a good idea since you have an opportunity to see the office and be considerate to the time this person has at hand. And who knows maybe you could get introduced to the HR or the hiring manager if they’re’ around and this person happens to know them! (@Careerbright)
How to be Prepared
- Resumes – well, NO. No need to print unnecessarily when you can send over email. The person you are meeting is most probably not a professional resume expert or a career expert, leave out the review from this meeting.
- A voice recorder – or your smart phone. Note taking during a short meeting can be distracting or just time consuming, if the person consents go ahead and just record the meeting for later reference on any details that you might want to follow-up on.
- Your business or personal card – yes. Most certainly, is required and good to add your key skills or professional summary at the back of your biz card.
Tips that will help you during the Informational Interview
These tips featured in a recent #careerchat on Twitter.
- Today’s informational interview is tomorrow’s employee referral. @DavidGaspin
- Informational interviews are a great way for employed folks to give back and keep their own network alive. @timsstrategy
- Even if you’re not looking for a job, you connect with people who face the same challenges, great sounding board. For grads who do all interviewing on campus, this is a great way to get an inside view of target companies. @MyPath_MP
- Informational interviews actually for collecting info. One vector on the critical path to F2F w hiring managers. Think about how info interview will get you in front of hiring manager. If not, stop & do something that will. Limit resume critiques to people who make interviewing & hiring decisions. @AvidCareerist
- 3 factors to consider before informational interview – prepare questions well/precise objective/stick to time allotted. It is also a good idea to send some questions via email before the informational interview. @Careerbright
- Treat info interview like regular interview! Study person & company before. @myFootpath
- Make sure that you ask open-ended questions. Be open to modifying questions. @bizMebizgal
Some good questions to ask during an Informational Interview
Often company websites and job requirements information do not offer an insight on the company culture. Informational interviews help you understand the company culture which is very important to see how you see yourself working happily for the employer and a fit with the culture.
A lot has been already said around on this topic so let me provide with a good list here:
- Questions to Ask in an Informational Interview
- Informational Interviews: Tips & Sample Questions for Undergraduate Students
- Sample Questions to Ask During an Informational Interview