The lowdown on informational interviews
When you typically think of job searching, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?
It may be online job boards that have hundreds of applicants patiently waiting to hear if they landed an interview. Or, you may think of networking as a way to effectively look for jobs. However, there’s a hidden practice that’s commonly overlooked by eager job seekers: informational interviews.
What’s an informational interview, you might ask? It’s a networking technique that allows you to connect with people from companies and industries you’re interested in without the stress that comes with a typical job interview. In other words, the roles are reversed; you have the power of interviewing someone else in order to boost your career.
Check out this fascinating statistic from Quintessential Careers: “One out of every 200 resumes results in a job offer. One out of every 12 informational interviews, however, results in a job offer.”
The purpose of setting up an informational interview is to gather information about what you need to succeed in your career field, learn about a new field, or just talk to someone about their own personal career path. The most important thing to remember about this process is that you’re not scheduling an interview to get a job offer; the primary purpose of an informational interview is—as advertised—information.
Informational interviews are great for any age group, whether you just graduated from college or are considering a mid-career change. The exploratory nature of these interviews will allow you to ask the appropriate questions needed to help you get from Point A to Point B.
Here are the steps you can take before, during, and after your informational interviews to get the most out of each experience:
Before scheduling your informational interview, it’s important to know what industry you’re targeting and what you’d like to accomplish. LinkedIn is a great tool to use for this part. Look up companies you would be interested in working for and take a look at the employees that have titles similar to your interests.
Another great place to start is the alumni directory from your college or university. That way, you’ll already have something in common when reaching out. Many times, people will list their contact information directly on their profile—in this case, it’s best to send a message to their personal email. Here’s an example of a template you can use when seeking interviewees:
I hope this email finds you well! My name is Samantha Tollin and I am reaching out because I am interested in learning more about COMPANY NAME.
I always like to meet new people and expand my professional network. Currently, I (explain what you do or what you are interested in).
Do you have time in the coming weeks to connect in person? I am available anytime after 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Looking forward to your response!
Once you have a couple of informational interviews lined up, the next step is to do as much research as possible on the person and company you’re interviewing with. The more prepared you are for these interviews, the more you can accomplish with them.
Once you meet the interviewee in person, show up dressed as you would for an actual interview. If you look professional and come prepared, this will show the interviewee that you value their time. You can start by giving the interviewee a short introduction of yourself, or a polished “elevator pitch.” Then, before you start asking your questions, ask the interviewee to give an introduction. You want to show them that the conversation is two-sided.
You can bring a list of questions, but show that you’re engaged by asking follow-up questions and not just reading from your list. Here are a few examples of questions to get you going:
How did you get started in this industry?
How did you find out about (company)?
What is the company culture like?
What responsibilities does your position entail?
How/when is performance measured?
What kinds of decisions do you make?
What are your favorite/least favorite aspects of your job?
What are the most challenging/rewarding parts of your job?
What do you like most about the company?
Those are just a few of many questions you can ask. Be sure to tailor your questions to the interviewee and listen attentively. When the conversation is over, ask for their business card and how they prefer to be contacted.
Always send a thank-you note after your informational interviews (here’s more on crafting the perfect thank-you note). Make it brief and straightforward—something that will let them know you really appreciate their time. Keeping in touch with your interviewees will not only be beneficial for networking purposes, but also could play a significant part in a potential job offer down the line.
Now get out there and gather some information!