First thing’s first, let’s make sure you understand the difference between an informational interview and a regular job interview. An informational interview is an informal, professional conversation with someone in a particular field or career want to learn more about. The word “interview” may be discouraging, but luckily you’re not the one being interviewed! It is NOT a job interview where you are interviewing for a position, in fact, the biggest mistake you can make is to ask the person you’re interviewing for a job! It is not only a great way to get a firsthand view into a specific career field, but also to strengthen your networking skills.
What about the benefits? There are so many benefits to informational interviewing! Personally, I think that informational interviewing is one of the most underrated career tactics. Here are some of the rewards to be reaped:
- A new contact. Connect with your interviewee on LinkedIn (and remember, always personalize your connection invitation) and maybe they can help you out in your future job search.
- Get the inside scoop. Whether you have a career in mind or you’re deciding between several, there will always be questions that a website cannot tell you. These people got their jobs by taking the right steps. They have insights on what recruiters are looking for including skills, experience and other qualities.
- Improve your communication skills. This is a great way to get comfortable speaking to professionals and is another skill to add to your resume.
Steps to take
- Do your research. What career fields are you interested in and want to learn more about? Maybe instead of a career field, it’s a company.
- Find people to contact! You can call organizations directly, use your personal network to contact, find a professional association related to your interest area, or even utilize your university’s alumni network.
- Introduce yourself. Initiate contact with the person you would like to interview. Ask for a convenient time to interview and make sure you emphasize that you would just like information. You might be surprised – many professionals will enjoy the chance to talk about what they do.
- Prepare. Create your “elevator speech” to introduce yourself to the interviewee about who you are and your goals. Make a list of questions and bring them to the interview.
- Dress professionally for the interview and bring your resume (but don’t bring it out right away; remember this is not a job interview!). Respectfully listen and don’t go over the allotted time .
- Thank the person for their time. Remember, they are doing YOU a favor. Asking for the contact information and names of other people in the field is a great idea to get different perspectives and of course, broaden your network!
- Follow up and keep in touch. Send a thank-you card for taking the time to interview and keep in touch. Let them know how your career search is going! This could even be a chance for them to let you know about job openings in the field.
For more information, check out how to master informational interviewing and extremely helpful tips that will help you make the most out of your informational interview. You can also check out a step-by-step process here.
Informational interviews can sound intimidating, but they are really just one useful part of the puzzle that is your career journey. When you put all the pieces together, you will have all the tools necessary for success! As always, if that corner piece just won’t fit, Gateway Career Services is here to help.