Note: If you want to find more people to talk to for informational interviews who can support your career success, be sure to get this…
Informational Interview Tips
The person you’ll be interviewing will take the conversation seriously, and you should, too. It’s important to conduct your informational interviews in a way that encourages people to give you all the career support they can, including continued help after your first conversation.
Informational Interview Tip 1: Determine Your Goals
Before you talk with someone, identify your goals and the type of information, advice and assistance you would you like to learn from this person. Possibilities include learning about their career field, the position they have, the company they work for, your potential career options in the field, potential job and career opportunities at the interviewer’s company, suggestions on how to land a job in the field, and the gaps in your qualifications and how to close them.
Informational Interview Tip 2: Preparation
Be prepared to open the conversation with a two-minute overview about yourself, your background, your current career situation, and your interests in the career field, profession or company … as well as your goals for the conversation.
Since you requested the interview, be prepared to guide the direction of the interview and ask questions to get the advice you want. (See the next chapter for sample questions you can ask during an informational interview.)
If you’re using informational interviews to find a new job, be sure to research the company, its products and services, and the person you’ll be interviewing. Also, be prepared to answer typical interview questions, such as:
- Why do you want to be in this line of work?
- Why do you want to work at this company?
- Where would you like to be in your career five years from now?
- What were the responsibilities of your last position?
- Why are you leaving your present job?
- What do you know about this industry?
- What do you know about our company?
Informational Interview Tip 3: Research the Person and Company
Learn about the company using the company’s website and blogs, Google, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.
Be sure to learn about the background of the person you are meeting. Depending on the type of connection you have to the person on LinkedIn, LinkedIn will probably NOT show you the person’s full LinkedIn profile.
Click here to read this article to learn How to Access Anyone’s Full LinkedIn Profile – Even If You’re Not Connected
Informational Interview Tip 4: What to Bring (If You’re Meeting In Person)
Be sure to bring a notebook and a pen to take notes. I also recommend bringing a resume, but only offer it if they ask for it, or if you want to get suggestions and feedback on how to improve it. (Whipping out an unsolicited resume during an informational interview may make the person feel like you’re trying to turn the conversation into a job interview – instead of an informational interview.)
Informational Interview Tip 5: Confirmation
The day before the informational interview, email or call to confirm your appointment time and location or telephone number.
Informational Interview Tip 6: Dress
If you’re meeting in person, dress as if you have an appointment for a job interview with that company.
Informational Interview Tip 7: Arrival
Treat the informational interview like you would treat a job interview. If you’re meeting in-person, arrive five to ten minutes early and be polite and professional to everyone you meet.
Informational Interview Tip 8: Starting the Informational Interview
At the start of the conversation, thank him or her for taking the time to meet with you. Introduce yourself, and be clear about the goals of the conversation.
If the person you’re meeting seems (or says they are) too busy to talk, offer to reschedule for a better day and time. While it might be inconvenient for you, you’ll be appreciated and you’ll get much more assistance from the person when you do reconnect.
Informational Interview Tip 9: During the Interview
Your mission during each informational interview is to get the career advice you need AND to make a connection each person you meet, so that you can begin an enduring relationship that provides ongoing career support.
Throughout your informational interviews, keep them conversational by demonstrating your genuine interest in the person’s advice, asking relevant follow-up questions, and (where appropriate) talking about your professional background.
Be sure to give enough information about you, your skills, experiences, and interests so they can help you now… as well as refer you to appropriate job and career opportunities they learn about later.
Use a friendly conversational style during the interview. Have good eye contact and posture. Be positive and enthusiastic (even if your career situation feels overwhelming or frustrating).
Don’t ask for a job. During your informational interview, never ask if the person can hire you or if they know of someone else at their company who can. The purpose of informational interviews is to gather information and establish an ongoing relationship – asking directly for a job could offend the person and strain the relationship.
Don’t take more time than you requested. If you ask for 20 minutes of a person’s time, honor that commitment. If you’re nearing the end of your time, point it out and offer to end the conversation. If the person you’re talking with is enjoying the conversation and has more time, he or she may continue the informational interview or suggest a time for you to talk again.
Informational Interview Tip 10: Conclusion
At the conclusion of an in-person informational interview, ask for the person’s business card and give him or her one of your own (if you have one).
Informational Interview Tip 11: Notes
Following the informational interview, make a note of what you learned and gained from the conversation. If you’re talking with people who could hire you someday, it’s particularly useful to make a note of any business issues and challenges they discussed about their position / department / company.
Informational Interview Tip 12: Evaluation
After each informational interview, evaluate how it went. What did you do well? What do you want to do differently in the next one? What did you learn from the interview (both positive and negative impressions)? How does what you learned fit with your own interests, abilities, goals, values, etc.? What do you still need to know? What plan of action can you create with the information you learned?