Informational interviewing is much more than what you do when you first graduate from college. It’s a powerful tool that can lead to real jobs no matter what your stage of life or career.
What is informational interviewing?
Informational interviewing is defined simply as learning about a topic, such as a company or industry, by talking to someone who is knowledgeable about that topic.
It’s an easy way to network since you’re not asking about actual job openings. Your goal is to listen and learn from the person’s experience–hear about how they got started and how they navigated their way to where they are today.
Let’s say, you’re interested in making a career change. As you talk to more people in the field you’re considering, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the industry and what new opportunities may be available. You’ll also build your list of contacts.
The nuts and bolts of informational interviewing can be summarised in the following steps:
Step 1: Prepare a List of Questions
The first step is identifying what information you’re looking for. Whether you’re researching a job, a company or considering a career change, it’s important to know what your goal is for the conversation.
With this in mind, you can start to prepare a list of questions. Here are some examples to start.
- 1. How did you get started in your field?
- 2. What do you enjoy most about your job?
- 3. What do you enjoy least about your job?
- 4. Can you please describe a typical day?
- 5. What knowledge, skills and training are most important in your field?
- 6. What advice would you give to someone starting out or looking for opportunities in this industry/company?
Step 2: Find people who are knowledgeable about your topic
Start with people you know and work your way to someone who can help you. Just like stepping-stones across a creek, conversations with one person will lead you to the next person and the next, until you reach your goal.
High school or college career centres and alumni associations can make it easy to set up informational interviews. But even if you don’t have access to those resources, as mentioned in the previous newsletter, Why Aren’t You Networking? Using your own network is not as hard as you might think.
Once you have an idea of what information you’re looking for, it’s amazing what opportunities present themselves. You’ll start to notice that virtually every conversation seems to turn into chance to network.
Step 3: The Conversation
The typical informational interview usually goes as follows:
1. Introductions– This allows you both to warm up and build rapport.
- Thank the person for meeting with you.
- Make mention of who you know in common to provide context.
- Summarise your background and situation.
- Tell them what information you’re looking for.
2. Q&A– This allows you to get the information you need.
- Start with open-ended questions to encourage the person share their own experience.
- Listen with curiosity.
- Allow them to elaborate on areas that interest you.
- Ask specific questions to get the exact information you’re looking for.
- Don’t ask for a job directly. It’s okay if the other person brings it up. But the main purpose of the conversation is to learn more about a job or industry.
3. Wrap up– This allows you to thank the person and ask for additional contacts.
- Thank the person for their time.
- Ask if they know other individuals that would be helpful for you to talk to.
- Request an introduction or see if they will contact the person in advance.
Step 4: Follow up
It’s important to send each person a thank you note, even if it’s a short email. You can thank them for their time and mention what you found particularly useful or interesting.
Informational interviewing can be a powerful tool that can open doors to your next job. Here’s a short summary of how to get started:
- Be prepared to ask questions
- Find people who can get you started in the right direction
- Listen with curiosity
- Thank everyone along the way for their help
And remember, no matter how much or how little information you get from each person, you can put it all to good use.
Always bring an updated CV to all your informational interviews. Use CV Builder to access and update your CVs now.
A cover letter is a great way to request an informational interview. Use our New Cover Letter Builder to create your cover letter today.