An informational interview is a straightforward question-and-answer dialogue between someone searching for a job and someone who works in a specific career or industry that interests them. An informational interview is more of a relaxed conversation than a job interview, typically lasting up to thirty minutes. The main aim of a positive informational interview is to gain an in-depth understanding of a particular career, job role, or industry.
Informational interviews can have many benefits. They can assist with identifying strengths and weaknesses, enhancing networks and partnerships, job interview preparation, and recognising steps to pursue a potential job or career. Whether you are just starting out or seeking a transition, you can conduct an informational interview at any point in your career. However, it is important to remember to request them out of sincere curiosity and motivation to learn.
How to get the most out of an informational interview: key processes
- Knowledge. You can gain beneficial wisdom by speaking with an industry expert, student, or working professional in a specific field or industry on which you are keen. You might walk away inspired or learn that a job does not align with your personality and goals.
- Networking: Building relationships and getting to know someone in an informational interview can be a terrific way to understand their career, roles, and responsibilities, and if they align with your ambitions.
- Interviewing: Informational interviews afford you the opportunity to practice expressing yourself and asking questions in a low-risk situation.
- Opportunity: opportunities can arise from networking and relationship building. Connections may lead to job opportunities, collaboration, or mentorship.
How informational interviews work
What do you want to find out? Do you want to discover the roles and responsibilities of a particular job? Perhaps you are keen to find out how an industry works. Maybe you are interested in discovering how to commence a successful business or how to successfully gain acceptance onto a prestigious postgraduate course.
It is usually helpful to make a list of people in your current network as chances are someone will be able to point you in the direction of key people to talk to.
Request a meeting.
Once you have identified someone who you would be interested in talking to, reach out and ask them for thirty minutes of their time. If someone is recommended, ask your mutual contact to connect the two of you by email or other form of communication. Otherwise, sourcing and connecting with someone on social media is becoming increasingly popular. For professional industries, LinkedIn is hugely popular.
Designers and illustrators can be contacted on Instagram usually, while you can reach out and connect with academics or authors on Twitter.
Create a list of questions.
Whether you are meeting in person or online, it is important to have a prepared list of questions. Conduct as much exploratory research as possible before the informational interview as you will want to make the most of this individual’s expertise. Prepare questions that they can exclusively answer.
Informational interview questions
Here are a few sample, generic questions but it is vital to adapt them based on what you specifically want to learn and know.
- Can you tell me about your career and how you have reached the point you are at today?
- How did you get involved in this field?
- What are your main roles and responsibilities?
- What does a typical day look like for you?
- What do you like, and dislike, most about your work?
- How would you recommend getting into this field?
- What skills, talents, and personalities do you feel are necessary to succeed in this field?
- What is the industry culture like?
- What are your predictions for the future of this sector?
- What advice would you give to someone interested in working in your field?
- Can you recommend any journals, magazines, organisations, or other key professionals that would help my career development?
Meet your interviewee.
Suggest an exact time and place to meet or be the one to send the online invite. Express your appreciation. The informational interview should be enjoyable, and conversation should flow.
Ask about the person, the job and the industry and remember to not take up more than the allotted time.
Forward a thank-you note as soon as possible after the informational interview. This can be done via email or on the platform where you reached out initially.
The thank-you note should contain a few thoughtful sentences specific to your conversation while expressing appreciation for taking the time to meet with you.
Given that it was a positive interview, staying connected is essential to continuing a relationship with your interviewee. If they tell you to keep them informed on plans for the future, then do so.
By staying connected, you are more likely to stay top of mind for upcoming job opportunities, conferences, and networking and information-sharing events. Creating a network based on similar motivations and ambitions can be incredibly empowering and may reap huge benefits.
DO and DON’T
- Your research. Find out as much background information as possible. From this, you should be able to create a list of questions that will uncover further and relevant knowledge.
- Prepare a brief explanation about your background and what exactly you are attempting to discover and learn
- Show your appreciation by sending a thank you note.
- Ask for, or conduct an informational interview with no planning, preparation, or research. This will not come across well.
- Let a negative informational interview experience put you off a job, company, or career path. Move on to another interview with added preparation.
- Ask for a job. Instead, ask for advice on how to position yourself in the job market.