How Informational Interviewing Can Help Your Job Search
Informational interviewing is meeting, whether formally or informally, with someone to gather information about an occupation, company, or industry that can help you as you progress in your education, look for a job, or consider starting a small business.
Informational interviewing happens more frequently than you may realize. Think of the last time someone asked you about your job, what you like or dislike about it, how it is to work for that company, or what you studied in school. Whether either of you realized it, you were having an informational interview.
Informational Interviews Can Help You:
- Choose or refine a career path.
- Determine what to study at university.
- Learn how to break into a career field, industry, or company.
- Determine which skills you have and which skills you need to obtain.
- Learn from others who own or started small businesses.
Do not mix informational interviewing with job seeking. You can be honest if you are looking for a job, but make sure the person you are interviewing knows the interview is for you to learn, not receive a job. During the interview, if you discover a position you want to apply for, wait until later to apply.
- Find an occupation, company, or industry to learn more about.
- Decide what information you want to learn.
- Identify who you want to interview and how you can contact that person.
- Research before the interview so you can ask more pertinent and in-depth questions.
You may request an interview over the phone, in person, or by letter, or in some instances your networking contact may make the arrangements. Phone interviews should be less than 5 minutes. In-person interviews should be 15 to 30 minutes.
Informational interviews can occur in all settings and occasions. If you conduct an unplanned interview, even though you may not be wearing interview attire or have a list of prepared questions, you can still make a good impression if you act professionally.
What to Bring:
- A small notebook
- A pen
- A résumé or a networking profile. You may want to bring both and determine which document you should leave with the interviewee, depending on how the interview goes. In some cases, if you bring a résumé, it may appear that you are expecting a job offer. If you decide to bring your résumé and you feel it would be appropriate for the situation, you may ask the interviewee to review it and give you suggestions.
Dress for the informational interview as you would for a job interview. Follow the dress code for the company or dress one step above it. Some informational interviews turn into job interviews.
A day before the interview, verify the interview date, time, and location with the interviewee. Make certain you know how to get to the interview location.
Make sure to:
- Be 10 minutes early.
- Have a firm handshake.
- Make eye contact.
- Mirror the interviewee’s body language. For example, sit forward in your chair if he or she is doing so.
- Keep to the time limits that you agreed to when you set the appointment.
Briefly tell the interviewee about yourself and find commonalities with him or her. You may share your “me in 30 seconds” statement, but keep in mind that the objective of the meeting is to gather information.
Phrase your questions in a way that is appropriate for the relationship you have with the interviewee.
Three Types of Questions You May Consider:
- Find out about an organization’s needs, expectations, and challenges.
- Find out what the organization has to offer you, but do not talk about compensation, vacations, or benefits.
- Ask for names of other people in the organization who can help you achieve your goals.
Examples of Interview Questions:
- What are the positive and negative aspects of this work environment?
- What attributes does a successful person in this field possess?
- What is your typical workday like?
Invite the interviewee to give you advice. The interviewee may not have a job for you, but he or she may know of other employers who are hiring. Find out who else the interviewee suggests you contact.
Remember to follow up with the interviewee, but do not over-contact him or her.
After the interview, assess how it went. Ask someone, such as an employment resource center or self-reliance center staff member, to give you feedback on your assessment. Interview more than one person in your area of interest.
Below are some of the questions you may consider:
- What went well? What did not?
- What do you wish you had said or not said?
- What is your follow-up strategy?
Remember to send a thank-you note regardless of the outcome of the interview. Send the letter in a timely manner either through the mail or via e-mail. It can be handwritten or typed. Keep your letter brief, and make sure it does not have any errors. Avoid phrases that sound as though you are asking for a job.