If you’re looking to learn more about a desired career path, an organization, or a specific role, it could be in your best interest to get first-hand experience and knowledge in the form of an informational interview.
That being said, how do you go about having one? And how do you ensure you’re prepared before it starts? Fellow has you covered!
- What is an informational interview?
- Difference between an informational interview and a standard interview
- How to get the most out of an informational interview
- Informational interview dos & don’ts
What is an informational interview?
An informational interview is an informative or casual conversation between a job seeker and an employed professional at an organization the job seeker is looking to join. Typically, these interviews are in a question-and-answer format to learn more about a particular career or industry, or more information about company culture.
The goal of holding an informational interview can be to:
- Learn more about a specific career field, position, area of interest, or employer
- Gain insights to help prepare for future job interviews
- Acquire skills for asking direct or follow-up questions
- Network with others
- Learn how to pursue a specific career
- Gain an understanding of your own strengths and weaknesses
Host effective information interviews
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What is the difference between an informational interview and a standard interview?
The core difference between an informational interview and a formal job interview is that an informational interview isn’t meant to lead to a new job like a formal interview is.
At the end of an informational interview, an individual is hoping to gain clarity regarding something that may be specific to their intended career path, but isn’t aiming for a letter of offer from a particular organization.
In short, informational interviews are for more information (hence the name!), and standard interviews are in hopes of a new job.
How to get the most out of an informational interview
Before you have an informational interview, here are six ways to get the most out of it.
- Prepare and practice
- Keep your introduction short
- Set the tone
- Prepare a list of informed, intelligent questions ahead of time
- Set your goal to leave the conversation with a firm grasp of the industry
- Follow up with gratitude, not demands
1Prepare and practice
Just like any interview, be sure to prepare and practice ahead of time. Know what you’re looking to get out of the conversation and have talking points and questions ready. It’s also a good idea to practice the main components of what you’d like to say or ask so you can be sure it sounds natural, but not too rehearsed.
Being prepared with a few practice runs under your belt also allows you to feel more at ease before the interview begins.
2Keep your introduction short
You always want to introduce yourself in an informational interview, but keep it short. Start with your name and your current role, and thank the individual for taking the time to talk with you. You want the other person to feel as if they know enough about you to understand why you sought them out for this interview.
3Set the tone
Once you’ve properly introduced yourself, set the tone for the interview. It’s essential to remain professional because you want to leave the other person with a positive impression and have them learn enough about you to potentially recommend you to others.
You can once again thank the individual for taking the time to meet with you, reestablish how the two of you are connected, and remind them of the why for the meeting.
4Prepare a list of informed, intelligent questions ahead of time
Another way to get the most out of the interview is to prepare a list of questions ahead of time. These questions will help start the conversation and ensure you get the information you’re looking for. They can be open-ended questions about the person’s role within a company, their area of expertise, or details regarding company culture.
Some questions you can ask are:
- How do you get into this line of work?
- What do you enjoy about it?
- What’s not so great about it?
- What’s changing in the sector?
- What kinds of people do well in this industry?
- Is there an expected salary range I can keep an eye out for when looking for roles?
- What has been your career progression?
- What does your day-to-day work look like?
One way to be prepared and have your list of questions ready is to prepare a meeting agenda in Fellow, where all of your questions can remain organized. Then, take notes regarding their answers and any other relevant information they have shared.
5Set your goal to leave the conversation with a firm grasp of the industry
At the end of the conversation, you should better understand what the other person does in their role and have a firm grasp of the industry. To accomplish this, you’ll want to ask questions like:
- What are the worst parts of your job?
- What didn’t you know before you got into this industry that you wish someone had told you?
- What do you wish you could tell yourself when you first started?
6Follow up with gratitude, not demands
When the interview is over, follow up with gratitude! Send the individual a thank you email or handwritten note showing your appreciation for their time and willingness to answer your questions. Be sure to further touch on your interest in the industry, company, or position that was established during the conversation. Then, provide your contact details, even if you have already given them. In addition to your name, phone number, and email, encourage them to add you on LinkedIn.
Informational interview dos & don’ts
Keep these dos and don’ts in mind as you prepare for your informational interview!
Some things to do are:
- Do your homework. Before going in, you should do enough background research about the person and their role. Doing so will ensure you sound like a credible candidate committed to moving into a new sector and learning more about a specific career or industry.
- Prepare a succinct explanation of your background and what you’re looking for. This will give the other person clarity about you and what you’re looking to gain from the conversation.
- Send a thank you note. It’s good manners, makes you memorable, and closes the conversation neatly. Be sure to include your contact information!
Some things not to do are:
- Go in cold. Practice doing informational interviews with friends, family, or even by yourself in the mirror, so you get used to asking great questions, listening to answers, and nailing your key points.
- Let one negative informational interview sour you on a job, company, or career path. Solicit other opinions and find others who are open to having a conversation.
- Ask for favors—it’s unseemly. Instead, ask for advice on positioning yourself in the job market or see if the person can introduce you to more connections.
The more you know!
Whether you’re looking to network in a new field, get a job referral, or even get a recommendation, an informational interview is a great place to start! Think of it as a stepping stone in the job hunting process, a way to meet someone new, or a great way to get the information you’re looking for from a first-hand source.