An informational interview is a brilliant tool to help job seekers, career transitioners, and students, understand a particular job or field they are considering moving into. It’s a chat where a jobseeker asks for career and industry advice rather than a job.
It might be a brief conversation on the phone or a one to one meeting, There may or may not be a job opportunity now or in the future but that is not main objective of the informational interview. The goal is to learn about the perception versus the reality of an area of interest and to extend your professional network.
There are several routes to getting an informational interview, ideally an introduction from someone you know who has a contact in the industry or role you’re researching. Investigate your network, see who might know people who are in jobs you would like to be in. Once you’ve identified these people, ask your connection if they would consider making an introduction
Prepare a cover letter, expressing your interest in their role or their industry and ask if they could spare maybe 15 or 20 minutes at a time convenient to them for a quick informational chat, maybe over a coffee.
There are some basic rules for efficient informational interviewing.
Be Professional. Even though this isn’t an interview you must put on your best interview manners. Dress smartly, arrive on time and if it’s on the phone, have the correct number and a notebook ready.
Do your research. Even though you won’t be doing most of the talking it will help if you’re as informed as possible. Research not only the company and the industry, but also the person you’re going to meet. Find out their background, time at the company, length of time in the sector, and any common area of interest that might help you truly connect with them.
Don’t outstay your welcome -
Offer to pay any bills that are due from the meeting, like coffees or drink.
Develop your questions in advance and have them in priority order.
Here are some great questions to ask
Pitch Yourself Precisely Be prepared to tell your story succinctly and know how to present yourself in 60 seconds...Make certain when you leave that they know what you are looking for and the three key strengths you bring to the table. Make it easy for them to think of you and share your story with others
Ask For Another Contact
At the end of the interview, ask for recommendations for other people you should speak to from a career development perspective and for people to talk to who may have openings."
Be professional and thankful for the time this person spent with you.
Follow up on any recommendations or connections they make for you and let them know what came of their suggestions. This shows good character and also keeps you in their mind for future news and opportunities they may hear about.
Actually, it's precisely when jobs aren't available that people are willing to meet with motivated job seekers as a way to develop a strong talent pool for the future. An informational interview can put you at the head of the line when a vacancy appears, lead to valuable employment contacts, or simply help you figure out your next career move. Make a connection and you will have an ally, a referrer, and possibly a colleague.