An informational interview is a great way to gather information about a career choice, and about people who have a successful career in the kind of jobs that you like. All you need to do is to talk to a person with a successful career about everything they know. It can take some preparation to do well in an informational interview, however. Here are tips.
Go into each interview with an objective
Whether you’re cold calling someone asking them for an informational interview or preparing for one that’s already been set up, you need to go in with a clear idea about the exact questions that you will bring up. When the meeting is done, you need to be able to point to a specific area that you know more about through the interview.
Prepare for the interview
It’s important to ask intelligent questions and respond meaningfully to questions asked. Since at least part of an informational interview should be directed at learning about the person that you are interviewing, you can start by researching them as much as you can through Google or LinkedIn.
Prioritize your questions
Since informational interviews typically last no more than 15 or 20 minutes, you won’t have enough time for all your questions. It’s important to go in prepared with many questions, but to prioritize them so that you know which questions you will ask first to make the best possible use of your time.
Remember that you’re not trying to get hired
An informational interview is only an opportunity to gather information. For this reason, it’s important to make sure that you don’t present your resume to the person that you’re interviewing, or otherwise sell yourself. It’s important to make sure that there is no appearance of a bait-and-switch. It shouldn’t look as if you really had a job interview in mind.
Be very careful what you talk about
Since you set the path for the course that your informational interview takes, you need to proceed with a good sense of direction. It’s important to not allow the interview to drift into personal territory. An informational interview is not the place to talk about personal politics or complain about an employer.
Ask for introductions
After the interview, ask to be introduced to other people so that you may gather more information about your career.
Write a thank-you note
Once the interview is done, you must be sure to write them an email thanking them for their time. It would also a good idea to keep them posted about the progress that you make in your career.
It’s important to have more than one source of information
Ideally, you should conduct informational interviews with more than one person. It should help you make sure that you aren’t overly influenced by a single person’s limited experience. If you’re interested in interviewing employees of a particular organization, you could target both current employees and former ones. In many cases, former employees turn out to be better sources of information.
Successfully navigating an informational interview takes preparation and a willingness to think deeply and carefully about your career. If you conduct your interview well, you’ll come away with valuable information that helps you advance your career.