As part of your career search, you will undoubtedly meet many professionals, recruiters and even peers who might be able to help you along the way to finding the right job. After casually networking with these contacts, it is beneficial to request an informational interview—a meeting that you initiate for the purpose of learning more about a specific job, employer and/or industry.
Why Informational Interviews?
You might be asking, “Why do I need to conduct informational interviews? Why can’t I just apply for a real interview?”
The truth is that informational interviews ARE real interviews. The best part, however, is that YOU are in charge. As opposed to more formal interview opportunities, you prepare the questions and set the agenda for the meeting. This is your opportunity to show real initiative and learn as much as you can about that particular job or company. Plus, it’s great practice and may even lead to a formal interview or job opportunity!
How do I schedule an informational interview?
First, you need to identify who you want to meet with and what you want to gain from the meeting. Tap into your professional networks, ask close friends and family, and reach out to contacts through LinkedIn. Once you have a target list:
- Write a professional email that explains your reason for contacting this person and your goal for the informational interview.
- Emphasize that you are seeking advice and information ONLY.
- Try to obtain an in-person meeting, if possible, and be respectful of the contact’s time—if not, phone or online informational interviews work well too.
What do I ask?
The key to a successful informational interview is to be prepared! Since you are the one who initiated the meeting, you must have a list of potential questions and topics to discuss. Some sample questions include:
- Tell me about your career background. How did you get to where you are today?
- What do you like best about what you do?
- What are some qualifications that make you successful in your position and within the industry?
- Are there ways to get experience in this field on a part-time, volunteer or contract basis?
- Who else would you recommend I speak with? May I use your name as a reference?
Of course, dress professionally (business attire).
What should I do after the informational interview?
Just like with any other networking event or interview opportunity, be sure to follow-up and stay in contact! Within 24 hours, you should send a thank you note (either through e-mail or a handwritten note) and refer to 1-2 specifics you found particularly interesting or helpful during the conversation. Also, feel free to connect on LinkedIn in an effort to continue to build and maintain your professional network.
For more information or to schedule a mock informational interview, please feel free to contact Daniels Career Services at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This post was also produced with the help of Jenna Citron, Graduate Assistant for the Suitts Career Management Center.