What are they? Why do them? What do you ask? What’s next?
To start, watch two students prepare and receive feedback in in this CareerSpots video: Informational Interviewing.
Conducting an informational interview does not have the same objective as a job interview. While the latter is part of a hiring process to land a job, the former is about networking, learning, and practicing. From informational interviews, you can gain a first-hand perspective about a company, a specific job, or an industry.
Informational interviews are extremely valuable for anyone looking to gather information. When done professionally, they can open doors and help you make decisions about your own career planning. So, how do you conduct one professionally? Figure out who you would like to talk with and make the connection; prepare in advance and ask thoughtful questions; and follow up to express your appreciation and keep the conversation going.
Like job interviews, informational interviews should be taken very seriously from start to finish. Your first step is to think about your purpose for conducting an informational interview – what are your interests, plans, etc? Taking the time to articulate your reasons will help you to target the type of individual you might like to contact.
Second, determine who to connect with! Think about your personal connections, explore the Career Connections alumni mentoring database, or initiate contact with someone from a company of interest. Then, introduce yourself (usually through email or letter for the first contact) and ask for a half hour of their time. Let them know your purpose for contacting them and give them an idea of what you’d like to discuss. Don’t forget that professionals are busy – you may need to follow up!
Once a connection is made and an informational interview is scheduled – they can be conducted over the phone, in person, via email communication, or Skype – be sure to research the company/industry/profession and prepare questions that will direct the conversation. You want to approach an informational interview with a plan; but you should always be prepared to improvise. This should be a conversation, not a rapid-fire question/answer session!
If you are meeting them, be sure to dress as professionally as you would for a job interview. Take your resume with you just in case (don’t forget, this is not a job interview, but you never know where it will lead!) and your notes with questions. Your goal is the leave the interviewee impressed with your efforts! Follow up with a thank you note afterword expressing your interest in continuing the conversation. Congratulations – you are well on your way to building your professional network!
Although networking might be a daunting thought, informational interviewing is absolutely worth the effort. Gain valuable information that you would have difficulty learning otherwise, and meet professionals who can be helpful to career path. The more you practice, the easier it will be when participating in real job interviews and the more you will be familiar with the professional world.