Why and How to Conduct an Informational Interview

Nov 9, 2023

Are you exploring a new career path or looking for more insight into your current industry? An informational interview is a great way to learn from an expert’s firsthand experiences. While different than job interviews, informational interviews are key to gaining relevant career knowledge.


What is an informational interview?

The goal of an informational interview is to learn about a career in a field that interests you. It is an informal conversation where you can hear a professional’s real-world experience in a particular position. If you are interested in working at a specific company, it is also a chance to hear more about its work culture. Informational interviews are often conducted virtually or over the phone and usually last from 30 to 60 minutes.


Why should you conduct an informational interview?

There are many benefits to conducting a job interview including:

  • Learning more about your desired career from a professional
  • Getting insight into a company’s culture that you cannot find online
  • Building connections that strengthen your professional network
  • Practicing interview skills in a low-pressure environment

By conducting informational interviews, you can increase your chances of success in your job search. However, the goal is not to ask for a job but to gather insights and build relationships.


Step 1: Identify who you want to interview.

Before conducting an interview, it is crucial to find the right person to talk to. For example, if you are a recent graduate, it would make sense to interview someone early in their career. Use LinkedIn’s search function to filter people by criteria such as location, company, and education. Alumni from your college are a great start, as they are often happy to speak with someone who shares the same alma mater.


Step 2: Send an interview request.

Once you have identified your target professional, it’s time to ask if they are willing to meet with you. Send a brief email or LinkedIn message that introduces yourself and explains why you are interested in speaking with them. Once they agree, you can schedule a time to talk that works for both you and the interviewee.

Here is an example of a message requesting an informational interview. Use this as a starting point and personalize the request to the person:

“Hi, [PERSON’S NAME], My name is [YOUR NAME] and I am a [CURRENT JOB OR ACADEMIC STANDING] interested in [INDUSTRY/COMPANY]. I see that you are a [POSITION] at [COMPANY] and would enjoy the opportunity to learn more about your career. Are you available in the next two weeks for an informational interview? Thank you for your consideration and I look forward to hearing from you soon.”

If you don’t receive a response or the person declines, don’t get discouraged! Continue reaching out to people with similar career experience.


Step 3: Do research before the interview.

Preparation is an essential part of a successful informational interview. Researching the person and their company will leave a lasting first impression on the interviewee. Your research can also be a guide as you are drafting questions to ask. Additionally, be prepared to talk about your skills and experience, but don’t pitch yourself too heavily. Communicating your goals will help the interviewee give thoughtful answers that are relevant to you.


Step 4: Ask thoughtful questions.

As the interviewer, you are in control of what information you would like to receive. Draft 5-7 open-ended questions before the interview that reflect what you are wanting to learn from the professional.

Here are a few general questions to ask:

  • How did you get started in this career?
  • What are your day-to-day responsibilities?
  • What are some of the biggest challenges and rewards of your job?
  • What are the most important skills and qualities for someone in this field?
  • What advice would you give to someone interested in a career like yours?
  • How would you describe your company’s culture?

Tailor your question depending on the person’s industry and role. If time allows, be sure to ask follow-up questions that may arise during the interview. This will display your presence and interest to the interviewee.


Step 5: Be polite.

Remember that the person is taking their time to speak with you. Be respectful and professional, and keep the interview within the allotted time frame. Pay attention to what the person is saying and take notes to record key takeaways. If you are interviewing via video chat, make sure that you present yourself well.


Step 6: Follow up.

After the interview, send a thank-you message to the person for their time. Good networking doesn’t happen overnight (or after one interview), so make an effort to stay in touch. Connect on LinkedIn, send the person updates on your professional endeavors, and congratulate them on theirs. A professional relationship could lead to your next opportunity!

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