Once you have established networking contacts, your next plan of action is to conduct informational interviews. An informational interview is an arranged meeting or telephone call with a person who works in a particular profession or organization that you are interested in learning more about. You are gathering information about a specific job, field of interest or company. You are not asking for a job, but simply gathering useful job search information. It's a great way to research a variety of careers and gain first-hand perspectives and insight from professionals. Informational interviewing works particularly well when you are a student. People want to help you.
Here's how to set up and conduct an informational interview:
- Have a clear objective before you begin scheduling interviews. What is it you hope to gain? Who do you want to interview and why? Be clear about your goals.
- Have your questions written down and well thought out ahead of time.
- You may contact people by phone or email to request an informational interview. State right up front a time limit and your primary objective for the informational interview — for example, “May I have 20 minutes of your time to…” Be polite, positive, respectful of their time and businesslike.
- Be flexible. The caller may wish to have you ask them questions right then and there or may prefer to schedule the interview at a later date. Be conscious of their time and keep the interview to the amount of time you’ve specified in your original request unless the person you’re interviewing indicates they have more time to spend with you and would like to continue the conversation.
- Try to schedule a face-to-face meeting whenever possible to gain exposure to the work environment and culture. Although you won’t be applying for a job, it’s smart to treat this meeting like an interview. First impressions count, so dress appropriately, be on time, be prepared and bring a copy of your resume just in case you are asked for it (do not offer it without being asked).
- Close by thanking them for their time and follow-up with a brief thank-you email or note.