Informational Interviews 101

Career Blog

Published: July 10, 2018 by Evelyn Hudson

Q: What is an informational interview?

An informational interview is a formal discussion with someone who currently has the job or a job similar to the one you are seeking. You ask your contact prepared questions about his or her career to help you gather information about a potential career path, employer, industry or job responsibility (for example, being a competitive intelligence researcher). Generally, an informational interview is focused on simply gathering information, rather than on making a job contact or asking for a job. The interview might occur in person at the contact’s place of work or in a public place such as a coffee shop or even online.

Q: What are the benefits of an informational interview?

Conducting an informational interview gives you the inside scoop about a job. You can ask about the contact’s education, his or her least favorite parts of the job and more. This will help you determine what you need to do to get that job or perhaps that it isn’t the job for you. It is also very likely that whomever you interview will have great advice to help you get your dream job.

Q: How do I set up an informational interview?

First, you need to connect with the person who has your dream job. It is best to contact him or her directly if possible, but through social media is another option if you can’t find a direct contact. Next, place a call or send an e-mail explaining who you are and what you are hoping to achieve through the informational interview. Keep in mind that some people may not know about informational interviews, so be sure to explain the process clearly to your potential interviewee. Most importantly, keep everything formal. This could be a useful professional contact for the future.

Q: My contact lives hours away. Can I still do an informational interview?

Yes! Informational interviews can occur over the phone, over e-mail, through Skype or even over Twitter through direct message. Whichever way works best for you and your contact is acceptable; your goal is to make the conversation as convenient as possible for the person you’re reaching out to.

Q: How do I prepare for an informational interview?

Before the interview, create a list of questions for your contact. It is also useful to do a little research about your contact (employer information, how long in the job, previous jobs) before the interview, so you can ask educated questions and not waste precious time asking about mundane topics. Also, be sure to bring a recording device (be sure to ask permission to record first) or lots of paper to take notes. You will be learning lots of great information and you don’t want to miss a thing!

Q: What should I do after an informational interview?

After the interview, make sure to send your contact a thank you note. He or she offered up precious time, so it is important to show your appreciation. It is also wise to consolidate your notes or recording into a useable format that you can refer to during your job search process.

Any other questions about informational interviews? Ask in the comments!

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