An informational interview is an important meeting between you and a networking contact or potential employer. An informational interview allows you to ask questions about a company’s goals and culture, the needed skills for a certain career path, and gain a deeper understanding of your target industry.
Anyone can benefit from doing informational interviews, not just job seekers.
An informational interview is very different from a job interview. You are the one setting the appointment and you are in the driver’s seat asking the questions and directing the conversation.
Their responses will give you a personal, inside view of what it’s like to work in a specific career or industry. Listening to the interviewee’s background will also help you to make your own training or career development goals.
Differences Between Informational and Job Interviews
- In an informational interview, you’re focused on gaining knowledge about a company or department, general job requirements or industry trends. In a job interview, your main focus is promoting yourself for a specific job opening and finding more information about that one position.
- You are the interviewer in an informational interview and the interviewee during a job interview.
- There is no expectation of receiving a job offer after an informational interview. It is only to gain knowledge and to network.
- Informational interviews often happen over the phone to accommodate the contact’s schedule. They can also take place at a coffee shop or other location.
- Informational interviews are usually shorter than job interviews, depending on how many questions you have and how well the conversation flows.
- People working at any level can be the subject of an informational interview, not just managers or people with hiring power. Staff people often know more about the day-to-day activities of a department and can give more specific information about work life than a human resources representative or high-level supervisor.
Both Informational and Job Interviews …
- Are professional meetings. Dress and act appropriately for the setting. Don’t use slang or act too casual around the company contact. You’re not applying for a job that day, but the company is likely to keep you in mind for future positions.
- Should be followed up with a thank you note to everyone you spoke with.
- Should end with a plan of action. Ask the informational interviewee if it is OK to contact him or her from time to time to ask job search advice. Ask how often you can make contact and if he or she prefers phone calls or e-mail.
Ways to Set Up an Informational Interview
- You interviewed for a job but did not get it. The company sends you a letter, phone message or e-mail from a manager telling you the bad news. You can call that person and ask to talk for five minutes about what qualifications the company was looking for that you didn’t have.
- This is
- a time to argue or beg for the job, rather to find out what you did or didn’t do during the interview process, what your resume is lacking, or what skills the company wanted. You might have missed your chance for that job, but there will be other openings, or the manager could recommend you to another department or company.
- Your mother’s hairdresser’s brother said that he has a friend who works in your target industry or for the company you want to get into. Call that friend and invite her for a cup of coffee (you pay) so that you can pick her brain for about a half hour. Bring your resume and ask for a critique.
- Working for Whatever Company would be your dream come true. After researching the company, call the manager of the department for which you want to work and ask if you can stop by at his or her convenience. The manager might only agree to a short phone call; that’s OK.
- Ask the questions that will give you the best understanding of what type of employee that company hires, what the company culture is like and what you need to do to get hired when they have openings.
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