An informational interview is an informal dialogue with someone who works in an area of interest to you. It’s a great way to get insider info about actually working within your desired field, industry or position. Informational interviews are valuable because you typically gain real-world knowledge from your subject that can’t be found anywhere else.
Please keep in mind that the immediate purpose of this interview is to gather information and not necessarily land a job. At least right away, that is. Please do not come right out and ask your subject about any job openings at their company or press them for contacts. He or she will share any available opportunities if and when they feel that you are indeed qualified and capable. Please remain cool, calm and collected at all times!
1. First things first, do your homework! Take your time and figure out what really interests you. Research your desired career fields and or employers online.
2. Now that you know what you want to do, maybe even where you’d like to work, it’s time to secure a candidate. Call on people in your sphere of influence. Chat with your parents, friends, teachers, advisers. Let them know what type of professional you’re looking to interview. Chances are they will have some leads for you. Also, use LinkedIn to see who you already know and who isn’t too far removed from your professional network. This will be a breeze if you’re actively making connections. For more information about how to effectively use LinkedIn read Jeff Wilson’s blog
3. Say something! If you haven’t already done so, prepare your elevator pitch. If you have, perfect it! Upon making the connection, make sure to add how you found your contact and why you’re writing to them. Prepare several questions to ask him or her to ensure that you get the most out of your conversation.
4. Initiate contact and break the ice. I personally prefer to email the first time around, but a telephone call is not out of the question. Keep it short and sweet. State your elevator pitch and determine a good time to talk to your subject for a half hour or so. Informational Interviews can be done in person or over the phone. Find out what’s best for your subject and accommodate them.
5. There’s nothing to it, but to do it! Conduct the interview. First, tell them a bit about yourself. Once that’s taken care of, move on to your questions. It’s OK to ask for clarification if an answer seems a bit fuzzy to you. Also, don’t be so rigid. If your subject veers off topic for a bit and shares some additional information, that’s more than fine. Listen and show interest.
6. Last but not least, write a thank you email after each informational interview. Thank your subject for their time and advice. Ask them if it’s OK to follow up from time to time. Check up on your subject every so often and keep them updated on your career’s trajectory.
Nowadays the job market is extremely competitive. One shouldn’t solely fire off unsolicited resumes and hope for the best. The Informational Interview is an excellent tool to add to your belt. Keep your print and digital resumes up to date, network and remain active within your academic and professional circles to ensure success in your internship or job search.
Associate Director, Corporate Engagement