Stuck in a Career Rut? Allow us to point you in the "Wright" Career Direction

How to Prepare for an Effective Informational Interview

How to Prepare for an Effective Informational Interview

One way of meeting new people and finding ‘hidden opportunities’ is to conduct informational interviews.  An informational interview is a good way to start building your network. It builds your self-confidence and also helps to prepare your for job interviews. You can use an informational interview to expand your networking contacts, find out about possible career paths, learn if and where opportunities might exist for your skills, and gain an understanding of workplace culture.

An informational interview also gives you a look at the inside operations of a company and helps you to decide if the company would be a good place to work.

Most people will be pleased to spend a few minutes (in person or over the telephone), to conduct an informational interview with you. After all, most people like talking about themselves, their jobs and their successes. Others might  not have the time or inclination, and if that’s the case, don’t take it personal; just move on.

Preparing for an Informational Interview

Before you contact anyone, you should develop a script that explains the reason for your request. The script below is an example, but it should be customized to fit your situation and needs:

“I was speaking with ____________, and s/he suggested that I give you a call. I am currently _________________. I am curious about the roles of people currently working in __________, and I was wondering if you would be able to meet with me for 15-20 minutes to talk about your role and the organization you work for.”

If you feel uncomfortable using the telephone, send a letter or an email as your first contact. At the end of your message state that you will contact the person by a certain date and make a note to follow up on that date.

Once you have your script ready, you should:

  • Find at least 3-4 people in the field. The more people you interview, the more information you will get.
  • Ask to meet at the workplace so that you can see the work environment.
  • Be authentic in your approach. Make it clear that you are asking for information only and not inquiring about a job possibility.
  • Practice with a friend or family member to build your confidence before you participate in an informational interview.
  • Prepare questions ahead of time.

Questions to Ask at the Informational Interview

Before starting the interview, introduce yourself and thank the person for taking the time to talk or meet with you. Tell them enough about yourself (interests and skills) so that he or she can offer you relevant information. Once all of that is out of the way, start by asking:

  1. What skills and personal qualities are necessary to do your job well?
  2. How did you get into this line of work?
  3. How long have you worked for this organization?
  4. What are your major responsibilities?
  5. What do you perceive to be the major rewards of this job?
  6. What are the major frustrations in this job?
  7. What do you like most about this job?
  8. What advice would you give to a person coming into a company like this?
  9. My strongest skills are____________. Do you know of any other company that could use someone with my skills?
  10. Would you have the name of one or two other individuals to whom you could refer me who could give me additional information about this occupation?

The above tips, while not all-inclusive, will help you in preparing and conducting an effective informational interview. Add your comments below.