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Conducting an Informational Interview

Tags:  Interview Skills, Looking for work, Networking, Informational interview

The whole idea behind an informational interview is to gather information about a career, field of work, or company that you think might offer you a future career. It's all about asking for information, not asking for a job.

That's why it's important to focus on the type of information that would be important in helping you make your decision. You can learn about what it's really like to work in a particular career or field, discover careers you never knew existed, or find out how to prepare yourself for a specific career.

Informational interviews also give you a chance to ask questions about the inner workings of a particular organization you may have interest in as well as help you polish your communication and interviewing skills.

Make the most of an informational interview by following these Guideposts:

Offer information about yourself related to experience and objectives.

Keep in mind, that just like you, people are busy, so preparation is an important aspect of informational interviewing.

Begin the call by introducing yourself, mentioning how you got their name and asking if it's a good time to talk. If it is, be ready to provide information about yourself, your work experience and your current career objectives. You can easily do this by keeping your resume close at hand and referring to it often.

2. Ask questions about company, industry and types of positions qualified for.

This is one of the most critical parts of the informational interview process because even though you want the conversation to be relaxed and friendly with opportunities for free discussion, it is still important to focus on gathering the information you seek. To do this you should prepare a list of open-ended questions in advance. 

Start by determining what you want in a career so you can find out if this job offers those characteristics. Next, make sure to clarify any information or misinformation you already have about a particular field, company or position. Finally, ask about typical responsibilities, working conditions and required job preparation.

3. Ask for names of others to talk with, and if appropriate, next steps. Thank contact.

Before ending the conversation, you have an opportunity to gather one final piece of information: who else you might speak to.

You want to gather as much information as you can. And getting it from multiple sources can provide you with a variety of viewpoints, fill in information you don't already have and/or confirm pluses and minuses about the industry, company or job that you were previously told.

In addition, this helps you to build your career network and you just might find that somewhere along the line one of the people you speak with has or knows of a great employment opportunity.

Whatever happens, it's important to always remember to be courteous and thank every person that takes their time to participate in the informational interview process, and to let them know to contact you, if at any time you can return the favor.

For more information on this topic, see the companion Skills in Action video!


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