Last updated March 3, 2022
Are you interested in pursuing a career in a particular job, company, or industry, but aren’t sure where to begin or how to get your foot in the door? Hold an informational interview! Informational interviews are one of the best ways to learn more about the field or industry you’re interested in - directly from a person who’s working in it. Read below to learn everything you need to know about informational interviews - their purpose, how to prepare for one, and how to make the most out of them.
What is an informational interview?
An informational interview is an informal conversation between someone who is established in a particular career or industry, and someone who wants to learn more about it (like a college student or someone who is new to the workforce). The goal of an informational interview is not to secure any kind of job - but rather, to collect information and make connections.An informational interview, when conducted effectively, can give you a better understanding of the career path you’re interested in and what steps you need to take to enter it.
Benefits of informational interviews
Explore new career opportunities
When conducting an informational interview, you can gather useful inside information about specific companies and an industry as a whole that you might not have been able to learn online. Being able to speak with someone who is already established at a company or career of interest to you will help you determine if it will be a good fit for you.
Expand your professional network
Informational interviewing provides you with an opportunity to deepen existing relationships within your professional network, as well as meet new people to add to it.
Job interview practice
While an informational interview is not a job interview, they are an excellent way to practice and hone your professional interviewing skills. While you should ask a majority of the questions during your informational interview, the person you are interviewing will likely ask you questions, too. This gives you an opportunity to think on your feet and provide thoughtful answers to their questions.
Gain insight about the job market
Depending on where they are in their career, your interviewee may have a good amount of insight on the kinds of jobs within it - including how many there are, how competitive they are to get, and how to best prepare yourself for them. They can also speak to current trends in that career, and what direction they foresee the industry at large heading toward. Learning this kind of information from your interviewee can open you up to new career pathways that you might not have known before.
The person you are interviewing might also be open to sharing tips on what kinds of experience and skills help land people jobs at their company, or be willing to keep their eyes open for potential opportunities in the future.
How to prepare for an informational interview
Research the careers or industries you’re interested in
Conducting an informational interview takes preparation. Take time to research 3-5 companies or industries you are interested in learning more about. Research the kinds of jobs that exist within that industry, what kind of education or training is necessary for them, and what the typical salary range is for these kinds of positions. Doing your homework and learning as much as you can about your desired careers can help make your informational interviews more effective.
Identify who you’d like to interview
Think about who you would want to interview. What positions do they hold? What companies do they work for? What information could they give you that you wouldn’t be able to find online? Thinking more specifically about these kinds of things will make it easier for you to identify who you’d like to reach out to for an interview.
After you have your list, see if there are people in your network who may know someone in the field or job you are interested in and ask them to connect you. If someone in your network is able to refer you - great! If not, you might need to reach out to someone you don’t know (also known as a cold contact). You can then reach out to people either through LinkedIn, or by sending them a professional email. It’s important to note again that being prepared matters! Once you’ve secured an interview with someone, do your research on them - their specific position, the company they work for, any relevant awards or achievements, etc. This can make your interview with them more efficient, while showing your interviewee you took the time to come prepared.
How to conduct an informational interview
After you have scheduled your interview, it's time to prepare your questions. Depending on how long your interview is, you may not be able to get through all of your questions - so be sure to ask the ones you want answered most at the beginning of the interview - and save the rest to ask later if time permits.
Not sure what to ask? Here's a starter list of questions to help get the ball rolling.
- What are the duties, functions, and responsibilities of your job?
- How did you get your job?
- Why did you decide to work for this company or in this industry?
- What type of education or training does your company look for?
- What are some trends your industry is setting or following?
- When searching for a job in your field, what keywords or buzzwords should I have in a resume or cover letter?
- What part of your job do you find most rewarding? Most challenging?
- What kinds of experience, paid or unpaid, would you encourage for anybody pursuing a career in this field?
While conducting your informational interview, be sure to take notes so you can have something to refer to and review later on. You don’t have to write down everything they say, but definitely make sure to jot down any strategies, names, emails, or resources your interviewer may mention.
Stick to your schedule
Informational interviews should generally be short out of respect for your interviewee’s time. If you requested a 20 minute meeting, be sure to stick to the 20 minutes.
Send a thank you note
If someone is taking time out of their day to help you, you should always say thank you. Be sure to send a follow up note to your interviewer within 48 hours of your informational interview - via email or LinkedIn - thanking them for their time and outlining your next steps. If you haven’t already, be sure to add them to your LinkedIn network.
Need some extra help preparing for your informational interview? Text #Jobs to 33-55-77 to get some advice from one of our job coaches!