Researching and connecting with people on LinkedIn are usually the first steps professionals take when looking for a job. But, is studying a company’s website and staying up to date on industry news and trends enough to land you that dream job? In some cases, it might be. But as it turns out, another option may offer job seekers better networking opportunities and occupational information: the informational interview.
What is an informational Interview?
An informational interview is an informal conversation with someone working in an area that interests you who will give you information and advice. It’s a one-on-one conversation with someone who has a job you might like, who works within an industry you might want to enter, or who is employed by a specific company that you’re interested in learning about. Remember, it is not a job interview, and the objective is not to find job openings.
It might feel awkward making arrangements to speak with a relative stranger or acquaintance about their work. Keep in mind, most people enjoy taking a few moments out of their day to talk about their professional life and to give advice to someone with an interest in their field.
Benefits of informational interviews:
- Get relevant information about the realities of working within a field. This kind of information is not always available online.
- Find out about career paths you did not know existed.
- Get tips about how to prepare for and enter a given career.
- Learn what it’s like to work at a specific organization.
- Gain insider knowledge that can help you in writing your resume, interviewing, and other areas of the job search.
- Initiate a professional relationship and expand your network of contacts in a specific career field; meet people who may forward job leads to you in the future.
Six Step Guidance for Informational Interviewing:
- Identify people to interview
- Prepare for the interview
- Create a brief introduction of yourself and your goals for the meeting.
- Plan questions to ask.
- Initiate contact
- Contact the person by phone or email.
- Mention how you got his or her name.
- Ask whether it’s a good time to talk for a few minutes.
- Emphasize that you are looking for information, not a job.
- Ask for a convenient time to have a 20-30 minute appointment.
- Be ready to ask questions on the spot if the person says it is a good time for them and that they won’t be readily available otherwise.
- Conduct the informational interview
- Dress as you would for a job interview.
- Arrive on time or a few minutes early.
- Restate that your objective is to get information and advice, not a job.
- Give a brief overview of yourself and your education and/or work background.
- Be prepared to direct the interview, but also let the conversation flow naturally, and encourage the interviewee to do most of the talking.
- Take notes if you’d like.
- Respect the person’s time. Keep the meeting length within the agreed-upon time frame.
- Ask the person if you may contact them again in the future with other questions.
- Ask for names of other people to meet to gain different perspectives.
- Send a thank-you note within 1-2 days to express your appreciation for the time and information given.
- If you aren’t already connected on LinkedIn, send them a message.
- Keep in touch with the person, especially if you had a particularly nice interaction; let them know that you followed up on their advice and how things are going as a result. This relationship could become an important part of your network.