Informational Interviews: Your Secret Weapon

Informational interviews are an often-underutilized, but incredibly valuable tool in the process of searching for the next step in your career. They can solidify a contact as a link in your professional network, and provide personalized insights into your industry of interest. 

informational interviews are an excellent tool to better your career

The purpose of an informational interview is to gather information about a career path, company, or industry, through a casual conversation. It's different than a job interview in that it's completely detached from a job application process, usually being requested prior to any position being available, if at all. An informational interview is asked of a professional contact when you're looking to either build a relationship that may provide potential opportunities for you in the future, or to learn more about the path to reaching your desired position. 

Finding someone for this conversation can be as simple as reaching out to a friend or family member, or as challenging as cold-contacting a distant connection on LinkedIn and hoping for the best. The perk of an informational interview, however, is that it's a low pressure situation for both parties. With more purpose than "meeting for coffee" and without the stiffness and formalities of a job interview, a contact is much more likely to take you up on the offer. If you decide to follow up with a previous connection from an event or conference, they may even welcome the chance to expand their network as well. 

Prepare, prepare, prepare. Do your research prior to this meeting. Learn more about your contact and the company they work for. Even if you plan to ask about it, investigate how they reached their position by reviewing their LinkedIn profile. Review details about their company beforehand. This is an opportunity to get inside information about working in a particular field, and you'll want to avoid wasting any time collecting information that can be found on a website. 

Conducting an informational interview, though it is a casual conversation, should be done in a professional manner. Dress nicely, but not too formally. Be punctual. Consider it an excellent confidence booster and warm up for a job interview in the future. Plan to keep the conversation brief, around 30 minutes, unless you've mutually agreed on a larger window of time. 

Ask good questions. To be clear: yes, this is an informal meetup, but if you've requested it, you're expected to be steering the conversation. It shouldn't be a full blown Q&A, but your contact will expect questions to drive the conversation, so make sure you have well thought out inquiries to move the discussion along. Check our next post for some great starting points!

Post-interview, take notes for future reference. You may have received some useful tips for applying at this company, or valuable information about salaries, benefits, or challenges you can expect to face, and recording this information will keep your mind refreshed and allow for easy reference later on. Did they mention a word or phrase several times? Maybe it's worth including those words in a cover letter. Were there any concerns raised about your own experience? Figure out an action plan to address them.

An informational interview can take the edge off of future interviews and provide firsthand knowledge of a field or company you have great interest in. It can potentially give you an in for a future position or create a stronger arm of your professional network. Our next post is all about the questions to ask during these interviews - they can make or break the experience!

Posted: 5/23/2022 3:47:35 PM by Amanda Wahl | with 0 comments
Filed under: fact finding, informal interview, information interview, professional network, questions