An informational interview is a tool to help you become informed about a new job area, industry or career path you may be interested in exploring – it’s the stage that happens before you apply for jobs in that area, or before you land a formal interview.
Simply put it’s a structured conversation you have with someone already working in that job or industry you’re considering moving into, and it’s an opportunity for you to take the knowledge from someone with relevant experience to inform your next steps.
After you’ve had an informational interview, you might feel intrigued to find out more about that area, or even feel confident enough to apply what you’ve learnt to go after related jobs. Alternatively, you may decide that this isn’t something you need to pursue any further, so you can concentrate on exploring another area of interest.
Here are some tips to help you plan what sort of content you should consider including within your informational interview.
The emphasis of the business meeting is on them, so get them talking about the story of their career to date, what they’re working on right now, their upcoming projects, or even ask for their view on an industry development.
It may also be useful for you to briefly share your own experience and goal, so that they tailor their answers to make them relevant for you.
You’ll want to go into the conversation with 3-5 questions you want answered that relate to core skills required for the job or industry, what employers particularly value in this area, career trajectory and even salary expectations. There’s a chance you won’t get all the information you want from the 20-30 minute meeting, so make sure you’re clear in advance about the one thing you must take away as a result of the conversation.
Close the meeting by asking whether they can connect you with anyone else in their network who’d be happy to have a conversation with you. While these informational interviews may eventually lead to a job offer, their purpose is for you to gather information and not ask whether you can have a job!
Finally, go the extra mile to increase the chances of them remembering you by asking what you can do to help them. From what they’ve shared about their current or upcoming projects, did you spot an opportunity to use your own knowledge or experience to add value?