Informational interviews can be a great job-hunting resource. They are like job interviews except you ask all the questions about an occupation, not a specific job opening. You have two goals during this interview. The first is to learn about the occupation to see if it might suit you. The second is to establish a connection with the person you’re interviewing.
Informational interviews can lead to job search suggestions, company contacts, and even job offers!
Informational interviews provide many benefits to help you.
- Make a contact—a connection with someone.
- Learn more about the company, industry, and job.
- Gain confidence as you practice your interviewing skills.
- Possibly learn about “hidden” (unadvertised) jobs or internships.
Who to Ask
Interviews take time, so target only individuals who have occupations you really want to pursue.
You might ask:
- Friends, family, neighbors, supervisors, coworkers, and anyone they know.
- People listed in the yellow pages or association directories.
Here are some general guidelines for the interview:
- Interview three people for each occupation of interest.
- When you call, say how you got that person’s name.
- Explain that you’re seeking information and guidance.
- Ask to meet for 20 minutes and stick to it (wear a watch).
- Bring paper and pen with you and take notes.
- Research the occupations and organization beforehand as you would for a job interview.
- Dress and act as you would at a job interview.
- DON’T ask the person for a job in any way.
Questions to Ask
Since you probably don’t have much time, pick only a few important questions to ask.
Here are some ideas:
- How did you get into this type of work? This job?
- What type of preparation/education/training did you have? What is required?
- What do you enjoy the most? The least?
- What three skills do you use most often?
- Describe a typical day or week.
- What motivates you?
- Describe difficulties you regularly face on the job.
- What are the advancement opportunities and limits?
- How does a person usually progress in this field?
- What must a person know to stay competitive?
- What’s the economic outlook for this career?
- How does your job affect your home life?
- What are typical entry-level job titles and duties?
- How do you suggest I learn more about this field?
- Here are my strengths. How do they fit in this field?
When your scheduled time is almost up, end the interview. Here are some important tips for ending your interview.
- Thank the person before you leave.
- Ask for referrals to others who might be available for an informational interview.
- Ask for the person’s business card.
- Immediately send a thank you note.
- Evaluate how well you conducted the interview.
- Decide how to weigh what the interviewee said. Take what you heard with a grain of salt and trust your own judgment.
- Review the notes you took and decide on your next step.
- When you eventually do get a job, tell your interviewees about it—they’ll want to know how your search ended!