January 12, 2018
If you are curious about a particular career path or company, an informational interview is the way to go. An informational interview is an informal conversation with someone who is working in your field of interest and allows you to gain insight into their role. The conversation offers a great opportunity to learn more about an industry, practice your interviewing skills, and network with contacts who can help you get your foot in the door. To help you on your journey, we have compiled a list of how to navigate and get the most out of an informational interview.
Who to Ask
Though it can feel awkward initially, you have to make the first move and request an informational interview. It’s easiest to start out with asking current connections. Brainstorm a list of people you already know who work in your desired field and invite them to meet you for a cup of coffee so they can tell you more about their job. Ask your friends and family members if they have any industry connections that they can introduce you to. Identify which roles you are interested in and explore ways that you may already be connected.
Many companies are willing to give informational interviews as well. Leverage your school’s resources to help make the connection. Jennifer, Hiring Manager at Verizon, says, “You can work with career services to get in touch with company representatives who are looking to hire at your school. I would also recommend attending company presentations that may be held on campus and talking with the presenters afterwards about your interest in the organization.”1 You are often just one contact away from your dream job. Reach out to them and request a meeting. Luckily, people enjoy talking about what they do, so the odds are in your favor!
Use the opportunity of an informational interview to get the most insight into a role and/or company. After the meeting, you may find that you are on the right track, or you may learn that a different role would better fit your interests; both outcomes are valuable.
Ensure that you get the most out of your interview by preparing beforehand. Kellie, Hiring Manager at Emerson, says, “In preparation for an informational interview you should do some standard company research and draft specific questions you want answered (i.e. day-to-day work schedule, company values, etc.).”2 Preparing questions will benefit you with the insight you most want and will show the person you are meeting with that you value their input. Also, be sure to bring a notebook and pen to jot down the answers to your questions!
Make a Great Impression
On the day of the informational interview, show up early, dress well, and get ready to listen. Genuinely listening, and not forcing a potential job referral, will make a much more lasting impression. Brittany, Hiring Expert at ManpowerGroup, advises, “The people you are networking with are now a part of you extended community. If you are treating them like a leverage point, they will likely see this and not be as willing to help. Taking a genuine curiosity in someone and listening more than talking in your conversation sounds simple and elementary, but these two things go a long way.”3
Another excellent gesture of gratitude that makes a great impression is to offer to pick up the tab if meeting over coffee or a meal. Regardless if they accept, it is important to ask. Traci, Hiring Expert at Accenture, adds in that “the fact you offered can go a long way in showing appreciation for their time and effort.”4 The best impression you can make is to show that you value their insight and appreciate their willingness to share it with you.
Once you have your first informational interview, the process will only get easier and become more natural. Establish connections and learn as much as you can about your field of interest. The more you know, the more you benefit!