What Is an Informational Interview? And How to Make the Most of It
In the ever-evolving landscape of career development and job hunting, informational interviews have emerged as an invaluable tool for professionals at various stages of their careers.
When you're eager to learn more about a particular industry, job, or individual, an informational interview becomes an invaluable resource for acquiring insights beyond what standard research can offer. In essence, it's a discussion that aids in gaining inspiration and making well-informed career decisions.
Whether you're looking to gather information before diving into job applications, university admissions, program enrollment, or embarking on a business venture, engaging in a conversation with someone with relevant expertise can provide you with a head start. It's not a job interview but a chance to establish meaningful connections.
This article explores the concept of informational interviews, why they are crucial, and offers a comprehensive guide on how to make the most of them.
Understanding the Informational Interview
An informational interview is a structured conversation between you, the job seeker, and a professional who works in a field or company of interest to you. It's not a job interview but an opportunity to gain insights, advice, and perspective on a particular career path, company, or industry.
The primary goals of an informational interview are as follows:
- Gather Information: Understand the day-to-day responsibilities of a particular role, industry trends, company culture, and more. This information helps you make informed career decisions.
- Build a Network: Connect with professionals who may help your career journey. They can provide referrals, mentorship, or introductions to other individuals in your desired field.
- Refine Your Pitch: Practice your elevator pitch, gain confidence in communicating your career goals and objectives, and receive valuable feedback on your professional brand.
- Discover Hidden Opportunities: Sometimes, opportunities aren't publicly advertised. Through informational interviews, you can discover unadvertised positions or future job openings.
Now that you understand the essence of an informational interview let's delve into how you can make the most of this powerful tool.
Preparing for the Informational Interview
Identify Your Objectives
Before reaching out to potential interviewees, clarify your objectives for the informational interview. What specific information or insights are you seeking? Are you interested in learning about a particular role, industry, or company culture? Knowing your goals will help you target the right professionals.
Research and Select Interviewees
The next step is to identify professionals who align with your objectives. LinkedIn is a valuable resource for this purpose. Look for individuals in your desired field or company and send them a personalized message requesting an informational interview.
Craft a Professional Outreach Message
Your initial message is crucial. It should be concise and professional and convey your intentions. Mention your objectives and express your interest in their insights. Be respectful of their time and availability.
Once your request is accepted, you must be well-prepared for the interview. Research the interviewee's background and the company they work for, and prepare a list of thoughtful and relevant questions. Being prepared demonstrates your commitment and respect for their time.
Conducting the Informational Interview
During the interview, there are some fundamental principles to keep in mind:
Start with a friendly introduction and some small talk to build rapport. This will make the conversation feel more comfortable and natural.
Ask Open-Ended Questions
Pose open-ended questions to encourage the interviewee to share valuable insights. Avoid yes-or-no questions, which can lead to shorter, less informative responses.
Pay close attention to what the interviewee is saying. Listen actively and ask follow-up questions to delve deeper into the topics most interesting.
Be Respectful of Their Time
Remember that you requested the interview, and the interviewee is taking time out of their day to help you. Be punctual and respect the agreed-upon time limit.
Share Your Story and Objectives
While it's not a job interview, be prepared to share your background, goals, and what you're seeking. This will help the interviewee provide more relevant advice and insights.
Don't Ask for a Job
It's important to emphasize that informational interviews are not job interviews. Don't put the interviewee on the spot by asking for a job directly. Instead, focus on learning and building a professional relationship.
After the Informational Interview
Send a Thank-You Note
After the interview, promptly send a thank-you email for their time and insights. This is not only courteous but also a way to keep the lines of communication open.
Implement the Insights
Take the advice and information you've gained during the interview seriously. Use it to refine your career goals, make informed decisions, and enhance your job search strategy.
Stay in Touch
Informational interviews can be the start of valuable professional relationships. Stay in touch with your interviewees periodically, providing updates on your progress and expressing your appreciation.
The Benefits of Informational Interviews
Now that we've covered how to prepare for, conduct, and follow up after an informational interview, let's explore the numerous benefits these interviews offer:
Informational interviews give you a unique opportunity to gain in-depth insights into a particular industry. You can learn about the latest trends, challenges, and opportunities, giving you a competitive edge in your job search or current role.
Building a professional network is crucial in today's job market. Informational interviews enable you to connect with experienced professionals who can open doors, provide referrals, or offer mentorship.
Refining Your Career Path
For those unsure about their career path, these interviews can be precious. You can explore different roles and industries to see what aligns best with your skills, interests, and values.
Practice makes perfect. Through informational interviews, you can practice your communication skills, refine your pitch, and gain confidence in articulating your career goals.
Sometimes, the best opportunities aren't publicly advertised. Building relationships with professionals in your desired field can lead to exclusive job openings or referrals.
Regularly engaging in informational interviews lets you stay informed about changes in your industry, ensuring that you remain competitive and relevant.