An informational interview is the practice of talking to people who currently work in a field to gain a better understanding of their occupation or industry… and to build a network in that field in order to ultimately land a job. The purpose of informational interviewing is not to get job offers – they just may be a nice side benefit!
Connecting with someone within your target company increases the odds of eventually securing a job with that company significantly. But remember: securing a job is not your immediate goal.
Step #1: Identify contacts
Decide which companies or contacts you want to reach out to. Create a running list of people to connect with – these people can be new contacts you haven’t met or they could be referrals within your network. Regardless, make sure to be professional and considerate when introducing yourself and asking to set up an informational interview.
Step #2: Reach out
There isn’t one perfect way to first make these introductions. If you have contacts’ phone numbers, start by calling them. Introduce yourself, explain what you’re hoping to learn, and then ask if they would be available for a meeting. This call can resemble an elevator pitch, and it doesn’t hurt to practice a few times before picking up the phone.
Here’s a sample introduction:
Hello, my name is Chelsea and I am a student at DePaul University studying Financial Analysis. I understand that you are a Senior Analyst at XYZ Company. Do you have a moment to speak with me regarding your career path? (Pause, wait for response). I was hoping that you could help me gain insights into this profession because I’m graduating soon. I’m sure that my questions could be answered in a 20-30 minute informational interview. Would you be open to meeting with me?
If you successfully connect with them and set a time and date, always follow up with an email. Confirm the details and the topic you’re discussing, and express your gratitude for their help!
Step #3: Prepare for the interview
You should prepare for an informational interview like you would for a job interview, even though they’re different:
- Bring your resume, a notebook, and a pen, But don’t offer your resume unless they specifically ask for it
- Do your research: know about their company and their professional history
- Bring a list of questions, and choose 5 to focus on
- Dress professionally
- Map out the route beforehand
- Arrive 10 minutes early
Step #4: Have fun!
Enjoy the interview – you’re in control, and an informational interview is a great opportunity to seek career advice from top performing professionals. Stay upbeat and enthusiastic, even if you’re nervous. Greet them with a firm handshake, smile, and maintain eye contact throughout the interview.
Step #5: Ask questions
Come into the interview with a list of at least ten questions prepared to ask – we’ve compiled a large list of sample questions to ask during informational interviews, but here are a few of the basics you should cover:
- How did you get started, and why did this interest you?
- What is your job like? What are your daily duties?
- What about this work do you find satisfying or dissatisfying?
- How does a person progress in this field?
- Why did you decide to work for this company?
- What skills are most important for your role and in this field?
- How would you describe the working atmosphere and the people with whom you work?
- Do you have any advice for someone interested in this field/job?
- Do you know of other people whom I might talk to who have similar jobs?
There are likely more industry-specific questions you’ll want to ask as well, but these questions are a good start.
Step #6: Close the interview
After the informational interview is over, make sure to thank them for taking the time to help you. Ask if there’s anyone else they could potentially connect you with. Do not ask for a job, and don’t ask about job openings at their company. Instead tell them you’ll follow up… and actually do it.
Email them after the interview to thank them again, and once a month reach out again to update them on your job search.