The Informational Interview
September 11, 2013
An informational interview helps you gain a better understanding your chosen field and omits the stress and pressure.
As a future job seeker, from time to time it’s helpful to get advice and feedback rather than acceptance or rejection.
How? The informational interview, of course!
During an informational interview, you’re able to ask for career, industry and job search advice from a given professional within the field.
Such interviews will be useful throughout your career and can even help with networking for a position – but, don’t go into an informational interview as a ruse to campaign for a job. If networking opportunities arise, take them but, keep in mind, that it’s not the point of the informational interview.
The point is to gain more information on starting out in a given field. It also gives you experience talking to people within a professional setting.
Basically, it’s an interview to help you gain a better understanding your chosen field and omits the stress and pressure.
Get the most out of an informational interview by following these etiquette tips:
Asking for an Informational Interview
Contact a professional who has a job you’d consider a success within your given field.
Remember, it’s still business even though it’s less formal, so dress in business attire and make an appointment, if possible.
Explain that you’d like an appointment to discuss careers within the field and gain career insight. Also, let them know that you’ve chosen them in particular because you consider them a success within your field. (Flattery often gets your foot in the door, so to speak.)
What to Talk About During an Informational Interview
Here are some examples of questions to ask and topics to discuss during an informational interview:
1. What type of degree or educational program do hiring managers look for?
2. What types of courses do you find most valuable to learning the trade?
3. How much work and/or internship experience do you recommend?
4. How did you obtain work experience?
5. What’s the best way to break into the field?
6. Is an advanced degree necessary?
7. What types of skills do you consider most important for this type of job?
8. What is your job title? What are other job titles associated with this type of position?
9. What is the salary range for the field?
10. Would you consider this a growing field?
11. Where would you typically look for employment opportunities?
12. Can you suggest anyone else you think it might be helpful for me to talk to?
Some other discussion topics and notes regarding informational interviews:
These questions are just guidelines – the interview is your opportunity to pick the person’s brain about your general curiosities.
Note that many informational interview questions are questions that would typically not be appropriate in a traditional interview setting.
Remember, it’s flattering that you’ve asked them for guidance so they will be more than likely to oblige.
It’s also important to note that they are taking time out of their day to help you, so be very open to accommodating to their schedule. Offer to buy them coffee or lunch at their convenience.
Bring along your resume and cover letter to have the person you’re interviewing with give you guidance or feedback for improvement strategies.
Feel free to take notes during the interview – it also demonstrates that you take their advice seriously and want to remember it for the future.
Since a professional took time out to help you, it’s always appropriate to follow up with a thank you note. Share what you found most valuable during the interview, referencing examples.
While it’s acceptable to send a thank-you via email, it’s almost always better to send a personal thank-you note through traditional post.
You can also share your information in case he or she has any more advice, opportunities or contacts to share with you in the future.
Keep in mind that, the better terms you are on with someone, the more likely they are to assist in your future job search!
Have you ever been on an informational interview? What did you find most helpful?
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