Informational interviews: Whom and how to ask

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Informational interviews: Whom and how to ask

Informational interviews are a relatively new interview format where the main goal is not to get a job, but rather get valuable insight into a particular position.

Though seemingly easy, informational interviews have their own intricacies and rules to follow in order for both the interviewer and the interviewee to benefit.

While informational interviews are often overlooked by the job seekers, they bring immense benefits, like expanding your network or pinpointing certain skills that you can improve.

In order to gain value from an informational interview, you need to know whom and what questions to ask.

Informational interview benefits

The first thing to remember: an informational interview is not a job interview and should not be approached as one.

In a job interview, a candidate wants to get hired, has a certain position in mind, and talks to an HR manager and the future manager of the department. Job interviews can be stressful and are to determine whether the candidate is a good fit.

Informational interviews are a different sort of interview. Their main goal is to help a person gain insight into the position, company, and industry as a whole.

Informational interviews are relatively stress-free, as there is no assessment – only the goal of gaining information. During such interviews, the interviewer is typically the one in a junior role, and asks questions about specific tasks and duties in a role, internal processes, possible pitfalls, and opportunities for professional growth.

The benefits of the informational interview include:

  • Significant network growth: During the interview, you can ask for valuable contacts that can help you with advice
  • Deep insights on the position that you want to fill: Such insights include the description of the role in the company, duties, attitude of the executives, company culture, etc.
  • Advice for future growth: You can learn which skills you need to work on and how to qualify for a desired position

Your first step towards conducting an informational interview would be to choose the right person and prepare a list of questions that you are going to ask.

Choosing the right person and writing down the right questions

You want the interview to bring you a certain value. For that, you need to do a bit of groundwork.

We recommend outlining the goals that you want to get from this interview: do you want to know how to become a professional in the chosen sphere or are you interested in this specific company and wish to work here?

You should choose the person and questions based on your goals.

Choosing who to interview

As said above, define your goals – they will serve as a base for the interview.

If you want to learn about a specific position, try to find a person who already works in a company in the same or similar position. If you want professional advice, you can try meeting an executive or a manager who can recommend the best methods for self-improvement.

Here are a few ideas on where to find the right people:

  • Your personal network: Maybe the needed specialists are already there
  • LinkedIn: Search among your existing network or look specifically for certain people
  • Your family and friends: Ask whether they know anyone who can help you

And remember: always be professional! An informational interview is still a professional exchange, similar to a regular interview or networking at a conference.

Send a message or an email, introduce yourself and politely ask to arrange a meeting. By acting in a professional manner, you will earn trust and respect, and can increase your chances of getting valuable insights.

Questions to ask during the interview

Once you are clear with your goals and chose the right person to conduct an interview, time to outline the questions that you are going to ask.

One of the best strategies is to first ask a person about their career: how it started, what led to the person getting this job, and how they feel about it.

People typically enjoy talking about themselves, so you could gain more insight than you expect. You may also think of extra questions while listening.

Some of your possible questions for the informational interview may include:

  • What are your daily duties?
  • What kind of skills and knowledge do you need for this position?
  • What are some of the benefits and darker sides of the industry?
  • How do you find this company, culture, and management?

After the interview, thank the person for their time with a follow-up note. If you aren’t already, don’t forget to connect with them on LinkedIn.

An informational interview is a great source of new connections, valuable advice, and even new opportunities. If you act in a professional manner, prepare in advance, and make use of the obtained information, you will significantly speed up the process of getting your dream job position – so give informational interview a try. In the 21st century, information is immensely valuable, so use it to your advantage.

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