The Informational Interview: What to Expect and How to Prepare

Are you interested in planning an informational interview? This quick guide will tell you everything you need to know to make the most of the opportunity.

What is an Informational Interview?

An informational interview is just that – an interview to get information. It is a tool to help job seekers learn about new industries, companies, career paths, or specific job opportunities. By formally interviewing a personal acquaintance or someone who has been referred, job seekers can gain valuable insights that lead to more interesting and lucrative job opportunities.

How Does an Informational Interview Work?

It is important to differentiate an informational interview from a casual conversation. Conducting the interview in a formal, systematic, and pre-planned way helps ensure that essential information doesn’t get passed over. It helps to think of the interview in the same way you think of a job interview. Hold it in a formal location, dress professionally, bring any documents you will need, and plan out your questions and answers beforehand.

How Do You Prepare for an Informational Interview?

It is important to tailor your informational interview to your goals and resources. However, there are some broad strategies you can use to improve the quality of the outcome.

  • Identify the Information You Want – It is important to define this as specifically as possible so that you can make it the focus of the interview.
  • Create a List of People You Know – You might have experts in your circle of contacts already. Think of past employers, co-workers, friends, family, neighbors, and people you know from networking.
  • Make an Appointment – Informational interviews typically last 15-30 minutes. Schedule it for a place where you can have a focused conversation without being interrupted. Public libraries often have private meeting rooms that you can use.
  • Plan an Agenda – You can’t get the information you need without asking the right questions. Focus, again, on specificity, and design questions that can draw out unexpected nuggets of information. Be sure to consider the personality, experience, and expertise of the person you are interviewing as you create your questions.
  • Be Professional – Plan to wear professional attire, and do the kind of preliminary research that you would do before a job interview. Make an effort to learn about the industry, company, and skill you are interested in beforehand so that you can act informed and focus on the information you can’t get on your own.
  • Seek Out Referrals – If you find that no one you know can provide the information you need, seek our referrals. It can help to contact professional societies, colleges and universities, and even an HR department in some circumstances.

During the interview, listen carefully, take copious notes, and be sure to thank your interview subject graciously once it’s over. Also, ask if there is anything you can do to return the favor. Find more resources to aid your job search by working with the Roswell employment experts at Selectek.