An Informational interview, like the name suggests helps you get information about a particular job or career path. It is an effective job research tool which can be used in addition to reading books and job descriptions to help you get more understanding about a job role.
Different from a job interview, an informational interview is an informal conversation with someone working in an area in which you have interest. Whether you are a job seeker, a student or career changer, informational interviews can be invaluable tools to get more understanding of possible career paths that you are considering.
Some of the topics for discussion in a typical informational interview might include career trajectory, internal job referrals, job referrals, etc. In this blog post, we discuss how to identify people with whom to have an informational interview and how to plan the best interview so that you can get the most of the experience.
Making your target list
It’s important to have a target list. You could start with people who are in jobs you would want to have in the medium or short term (which ever you think is appropriate) Linkedin is a great tool for this purpose. Make a list of positions and companies you would like to work for and find out if you have any connections with your target interviewee. You don’t want to target people who will not have time to meet up with you. Mix your list up but do not aim too high. It does not have to be your dream role sometimes just a person in a company you would like to work for is enough.
Research the person
Get as much information as you can about your potential interviewee. Research the industry, their role, some jargon, check out their company website. You are not expected to be an expert but showing your interest by knowing something about the field will put you miles ahead of the competition. You don’t want to waste your valuable interview time asking information about things that are readily available online.
Researching also helps you make sure that the person you want to meet is someone you can learn from. and give you the much needed motivation to achieve your career aspirations. So google the person online, check out their social media profiles.
Plan the meeting
You have to be prepared and identify what it is you want to get out of your meeting. Your plan should depend on your context. Are you a recent grad, a career changer, an experienced grad who is wants to work for your dream company? Whatever your context is, prepare some thoughtful questions that will help you get the most of your informational interview.
Be careful not to waste the interviewee’s time by asking questions whose answers you could get through a simple google search. You should know where your interviewee works for example.
Some questions that you could ask include:
- How did you get started in your field?
- How did your career progress?
- What is your opinion on the outlook of the industry?
- What is your advice to someone who is just starting up? (or if you were starting over again, what are the key things you would do?
It is important to also plan to ask questions that help the other person as well. (Ex) What is the one thing you need help with right now that I would help you with? These will give you important pointers on how to add value to the other person. Steer clear of questions that directly ask your interviewee for a job. The goal of an informational interview is to develop a relationship with your interviewee so that they can help you with your job search in the future.
In addition, be ready to answer a couple of questions. You should also bring your CV with you to an informational interview just in case. Prepare for your informational interview the same way you would prepare for a fully fledged interview.
Scheduling your meeting.
A cold email is good but I prefer phone conversations. It is easy for someone to ignore your email but it’s much harder to ignore someone on the phone with you. Which ever form of communication you choose to reach out to potential interviewees, endeavor to keep it professional.
Plan to have a short meeting that does not go over 1 hour. It’s good practice to schedule your meeting at a time where you have nothing scheduled after so that you are not rushed to move on to something else before you have finished your precious interview.
So, you have planned the meeting and have prepared all the questions you want to ask. Your interviewee has said yes to your invitation and the next step is slaying the actual interview. Your interview is the opportunity to sell yourself as a potential hire or colleague or mentee. If your aim is to find a job, demonstrate that you understand the employer’s challenges, where they fit in the industry and how you deal with similar challenges perhaps in your current role. Have your own perspective on how you can add value.
Be courteous, dress appropriately, keep it professional and be on time. Try to make a good impression so that your interviewee is willing to meet you again.
After the meeting
The results you will get after your informational interview will depend on what you do after the interview. Your follow up should be strong. (Ex) Write a thank you note, schedule other meetings, keep in touch, etc. Take your professional relationship with your interviewee beyond that short meeting you just had. Do not just call when you need something. Invest in building a good relationship. This will help you get access to their network or help you land your next job.
So why not schedule that informational interview today? Keep it casual and relaxed. Prepare adequately and make it easy for your interviewee to say yes.