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How to Ace Your Informational Interview

Last updated August 12, 2020

One of the best ways to learn more about a job, company, or industry you are interested in is through informational interviewing. An informational interview is a conversation you have with someone who is in a job or at a company you are interested in. An informational interview is NOT a job interview nor is it a time to ask about job openings.

But why should you conduct an informational interview, how do you conduct one, and what questions should you ask? Use our outline below to help guide your through your informational interview process.

The benefits of an informational interview

  1. Explore new career opportunities: You can gather a lot of useful information about an organization that is not listed on their website when you conduct an informational interview. Being able to speak with someone in your career of interest will help you determine if it will be a good career fit for you or not.
  2. Expand your professional network: Informational interviewing provides you with an opportunity to meet new people you can add to your professional network.
  3. Helps you practice your interviewing skills: Though it's not a job interview, informational interviews are an excellent way to practice your professional interviewing skills. The person you are interviewing is likely to ask you questions as well, so it will give you an opportunity to provide thoughtful answers to their questions and will simulate a real job interview.
  4. Gain insight on the job market: the goal of this form of interview is not to ask for a job. That being said, the person you are interviewing might be open to sharing tips on how to apply for positions at their company or be willing to keep their eyes open for potential opportunities in the future.

How to conduct an informational interview

Conducting an informational interview takes preparation, this is not the time to just wing it. Take time to research 3 to 5 companies or jobs you are interested in learning more about. 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 that is great! If not, you might need to reach out to someone you don’t know (also known as a cold contact).

After you have reached out and scheduled your interview, it's time to prepare your questions. Come to your interview with a list of questions, but keep in mind that you may only have time to ask 5 or 6 depending on how long your interview will be. Try to ask questions that cannot be found on the companies website.

Not sure what to ask? Here's a starter list of questions to help get the ball rolling.

  1. What do you do? What are the duties/functions/responsibilities of your job?
  2. How did you get your job?
  3. Why did you decide to work for this company or in this industry?
  4. What type of education or training does your company look for?
  5. When searching for a job in your field, what keywords or buzzwords should I have in a resume or cover letter?
  6. What part of your job do you find most rewarding? Most challenging?
  7. What kinds of experience, paid or unpaid, would you encourage for anybody pursuing a career in this field?

Take Notes: 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 strategies, names, emails, or resources your interviewer may mention.

Keep to your schedule: If you requested a 20 minute meeting, be sure to stick to the 20 minutes to be respectful of your interviewee’s time.

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, thanking them for their time and outlining your next steps. If you haven’t already done so, this is a great time to add them as a connection on Linkedin.

Pat yourself on the back, you completed your first informational interview! Not only do you know more about the company you are interested in, but you have added someone to your professional network. 

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