Last year, one of my mentors introduced me to the mystical and magical idea of informational interviews. Ok, I know some of you beautiful people may have already known about this type of interview so you’re probably not that impressed. That’s ok. However, for those who are new grads, have NEVER heard about informational interviews, are confused on the concept, or just curious, get ready to learn.
What are Informational Interviews?
Informational interviews are just that, a 20-30 minute interview with someone in your desired field or position to gain a better understanding of that position, field, company, firm, etc. You’re not participating in this interview to land a job, but to learn. However, keep in mind that in some cases, an informational interview can lead to a job (score!). This makes informational interviews great for those in between jobs, thinking of a career change, or new to the job market (ie. recent graduates).
Why are Informational Interviews Important?
-allows you to expand your network (we’ve all heard our network is our net worth)
-helps you gain a better understanding of the company, field, agency, etc before diving head first
-allows you to practice your interview skills
-could lead to an actual job (not guaranteed but the odds are in your favor)
How do I set up an Informational Interview?
Start by asking everyone you know for leads! Once you have a lead, you can use the following template created by Minnesota State to help initiate the meeting.
“Mrs. Smith, Brad Johnson suggested I speak with you. My name is Steven Olson, and I am interested in the ________ field. I could use advice from someone who is in this field. Do you have any time this week when I could meet with you? I know you’re busy, so I only need about 15 minutes of your time. I would really like to learn more about your company and the ________ field from someone like you.”
What do I do after an informational Interview?
FOLLOW UP! Show your appreciation with a thank you note, phone call, or email (be aware of the appropriate method for your audience). Following up helps with your job search and makes you memorable. There is a lot of competition out there, and you need to stand out.
Other Helpful Tips
The University of Missouri’s Law School gives some great tips for informational interviews. I think that the best tips would be:
-research the industry, interviewees, and agency
-prepare 8-10 questions
-be an active listener
-ASK FOR MORE REFERENCES AND LEADS (hey! it’s capitalized and bolded because it’s important)
-follow up with thank you note
Bonus! Bonus! Bonus!
Now that you’ve gotten some great information about what and informational interview is and how to set it up, let me share with you some great questions from The University at Buffalo’s School of Management to ask during the informational interview.
Awesome Informational Interview Questions:
1. Could you describe one of your typical workdays?
2. What skills are required in your position on a day-to-day basis?
3. What parts of your job do you find most challenging?
4. What do find most enjoyable?
5. Are there any negatives to your job?
6. How many hours do you work in a typical week?
7. Which seasons of the year are toughest in your job?
8. How would you describe the corporate culture?
9. Is this field growing enough so that there’s room for someone like me?
10. Are too many or too few people entering this profession?
11. What developments on the horizon could affect future opportunities?
12. This industry has changed dramatically in the past five years. What have you seen from inside your company? Where do you think the changes will happen in the next five years?
13. How frequently do layoffs occur? How does it affect employees’ morale?
14. Why do people leave this field or company?
15. Who are the most important people in the industry today?
16. Which companies have the best track record for promoting women and minorities?
17. Are there opportunities for self-employment in your field? Where?
18. What would be a reasonable salary range to expect if I entered this field? What is the long-term potential?
19. What is the advancement potential in the field? What is a typical path?
20. How did you get your job?
21. If you could start all over again, would you change your career path in any way? Why?
22. How long does it take for managers to rise to the top?
23. What is the background of most senior-level executives?
24. What educational preparation would you recommend for someone who wants to advance in this field?
25. What qualifications do you seek in a new hire?
26. How do most people enter this profession?
27. Which of my skills are strong compared to other job hunters in this field?
28. What do you think of the experience I’ve had so far? For what types of positions would it qualify me?
29. Can you recommend any courses I should take before proceeding further with my job search?
30. What companies or industries do you think I should target?
31. Do you think my objective is clearly stated, realistic and achievable?
32. Considering my background, how well do you think I would fit in this company and/or profession?
33. How does your company compare with others we’ve discussed?
34. Would the work involve any lifestyle changes, such as frequent travel or late-night business entertaining?
35. Considering all the people you’ve met in your field, what personal attributes are essential for success?
36. Taking into account my skills, education and experience, what other career paths would you suggest I explore before making a final decision?
37. Where can I write to get up-to-date information on salaries, employers and industry issues?
38. What professional journals and organizations should I be aware of?
39. Is there anything else you think I need to know?
40. Who else would you recommend I speak with? When I call, may I use your name?
Got an interview for an actual job? Check out my post where I share some questions to ask during your interview that will be sure to impress.
What have been your experiences with informational interviews? Leave a comment down below!