Never heard of informational interviews?
That’s a shame, because they can be a powerful tool in your job search toolkit. Unlike a formal job interview, where the spotlight shines ever so brightly on you, this interview allow you to shine a light on someone else.
An informal networking meeting between you and an industry professional, an informational interview, is a great way to get the inside story about a career or industry you hope to enter. Especially helpful for newbies to a career field, but also a valuable endeavor for career changers to gain insight into a potential new career path.
So, where do you begin?
Use your network to find contacts, offline and online. LinkedIn, of course, is the go to for finding professional connections. If you feel weird about reaching out to a complete stranger, try using LinkedIn’s “Find Alumni” feature, which allows you to find fellow alum from your alma mater and filter by company name, industry, location, and college major. At least this way, you will have something in common with that stranger you ask to interview – a nice way to break the ice, even when introducing yourself and requesting an interview.
A word of caution!
Even though this experience is not a formal job interview, treat it with the same level of professionalism as you would a traditional job interview.
Dress professionally, and do your homework about the company. Prepare a list of questions to help you stay focused. Keep a watch or other timepiece in front of you as to not lose track of time.
When done correctly, an informational interview can be a highly effective way to not only gain meaningful insight into companies, industries, and career paths, but also to directly and informally network with industry professionals, who may even consider you for future openings, or help connect you with other industry contacts or recruiters.
Quick Tips for Informational Interviews:
Why conduct an informational interview?
- Explore careers and clarify your career goal
- Expand your professional network
- Build confidence for a job interview
- Access the most up-to-date career information
- Identify your professional strengths and weaknesses
How do I prepare?
- Prepare a list of questions
- Dress professionally
- Bring resume (for feedback not to apply for a job) & notebook
- Call to confirm
- Know where you are going
- Arrive 10 minutes early
- Be attentive
- Use good listening skills
- Establish a time limit and stick to it
- Never ask for a job, but do ask for referrals of other professionals you may interview
- Always send a note of thanks after interview