Prepare for an Informational Interview
An informational interview is a meeting that you arrange to talk to someone in the industry, career, or organization that interests you. Informational interviews are an opportunity to ask questions to get information about the job and company that you are interested in. They can be very useful screening processes to determine whether this field, industry, or career is a proper match for your skills and interests. Properly preparing for the interview will help you get the most out of it, as well as provide you with further resources to look into.
Researching the Company
- Look at the company’s website. Researching the company and industry you are interested in will help you find the relevant questions and materials to bring to an informational meeting. However, researching the industry, position, or market that you will be having an informational interview in does not necessarily mean finding all the answers: that is the point of the interview.
- Focus on finding information that you do not yet know about so that you can be more informed during the meeting and get the most out of your interview.
- Look at the company’s website to find information about where they stand in the industry, how many people they employ, what their past accomplishments have been, and who their executives are.
- Websites can also provide you with reviews of the company’s products or services.
- Look up the individual you will be meeting with. Look up the specific person you will be meeting with online and look for any articles they have written or awards they received. The more information you can find about the individual the more informed and specific your questions can be. If they have written articles, read a few of them to better understand their position and perspective.
- You can perform online searches for an individual or look up professional profiles on sites like LinkedIn.
- Researching the individual you will be meeting with might also give you information about their demeanor or interpersonal skills.
- Contact the company directly. Contacting the company and asking for information is another way to get general information about how the company narrates their history and presents themselves to the public. Ask to be directed to sites with information regarding the company, or request extra information that isn’t present on their website.
- Ask questions, like “I’m looking to find more information about your company as I prepare for an informational interview. Can you recommend a good source of information?” or “Do you have any information you send to those who request it?” or “Where can I find more information about your company?”
- Identify the information you want. Spend time thinking about what it is you’re meeting about and why you want to meet about it. Of course, there will be information that will be new to you regardless of how much you prepare. However, the more time you spend thinking about what kind of resources and information would be most helpful and useful for you, the better you will be able to prepare appropriate questions.
- Ask yourself questions, like “Am I trying to change careers?” “Do I want to enter into a new industry?” or “What do I find interesting about this company?”
- Prepare questions about the industry. Begin by preparing questions about the industry that you are interested in. This can also be a small application of your research, but it should ultimately help you gain information that you do not already have. Try asking questions that only the individual you are meeting with can answer.
- Try asking questions like, “How has the industry changed since you began working here” “What positions do you think are essential in this industry” or “How do you see the industry changing in the next few years?”Template:Expertgreenbox:160977
- Ask questions about the individual. Asking questions about the individual and their history will help give you useful information and potential resources. Develop questions that answer questions about how the individual got started, what made them interested in this specific company or industry, or what their daily routine is like. Asking questions about articles the individual has written, or awards they were given, will also help you establish a relationship. Be sure to avoid questions that you can find answers to on your own, like how long they have been with a company or what their job title is.
- Try asking questions about the person you are meeting with, like “What do value most about this industry?” or “What does your role in the company usually entail?”
- Try unconventional questions. Asking unconventional questions can help break the ice and also learn information unique to an individual or company. Unconventional questions should be used sparingly as you don’t want to give the impression that you are not taking the interview seriously. However, asking two or three unconventional questions during an informational interview can keep a conversation flowing naturally.
- Try asking unconventional questions like “What do you do first thing every morning?” or “Who has been the most influential in your career?”
Actively Participating in the Interview
- Arrive 10 minutes early. Arriving early will not only ensure that you are on time for the meeting, but it will also help you avoid being rushed and disheveled. Showing up for a meeting right as it is scheduled will most likely cause you to rush and potentially forget important information and questions. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to commute to the interview so that you can settle in, collect yourself, and make final preparations for your meeting.
- Go over your research and questions one last time while you are waiting for the meeting to start.
- Ask your questions. Asking questions is going to be the most effective way to take advantage of an informational interview. Informational interviews have it all in the name, they are about information, not landing a new job. Asking questions about the industry or position you are interested in will help you collect relevant information about a potential career change.
- Ask questions about the industry in general, like “What types of jobs exist in this industry or industry?” “Where would you recommend someone start who wants to break into this industry?” or “Are there any professional associations or groups I should look into?”
- Ask specific questions of your interviewer, like “How did you get started in this industry?” “If you were just getting involved now, where would you put yourself?” “How do you see the industry changing?” “What is a typical day like for you?” or “What is different or unique about your role or company?”
- Take notes. Bringing something to take notes with will help you retain all of the expected information you may have anticipated as well as new information that emerged through the interview. Remember to look up and be conversational. You may be receiving a lot of new information, but the purpose of this meeting is to have a conversation, not simply to be plugging away notes into a laptop or notebook. Take quick notes of major points that are brought up, and make a note of points that you would like to return to before the interview is over.
- Be sure to notify those in the interview if you plan on taking notes on a laptop or phone just to be sure they know that is what you are doing.
- Ask for referrals. Ask the individual who is interviewing you for referrals to other companies or people within the industry that could be of more assistance. Informational interviews are meant to provide you with resources, and people with experience can be invaluable resources. However, be sure to wait until the interview begins to end before asking for referrals. Asking too soon can sometimes imply that you are not interested in meeting with the individual you are currently meeting with.
- Try using questions like, “Do you know of anyone in the industry that I should be in contact with?” “Is there someone in the industry who has a unique perspective on where the industry is going?” or “Who would you say is an essential person or company to look into?”
- Be polite. As informational interviews are not about finding a job immediately, being polite will show your courtesy for others taking time out of their day to meet with you. Be sure to treat everyone in the interview with respect and thank everyone for their time. The more polite and professional you are in the interview the more likely they will be to continue to help you and provide you with information and referrals.
- Remember to dress and behave as though this interview was for a new-hire position.
- Ask if you can stay in touch. Asking if you can follow-up and stay in touch with the person you had the interview with will allow you to approach them with other questions as they arise throughout your research process. Be sure to immediately follow-up your interview with a thank you note in an email. Thanking the person for their time and attention will help solidify your connection and may become a helpful part of your future network.
- Use phrases like, “Thank you for the time and information you gave during our meeting” or “I truly appreciate the time you took out of your day to meet with me and answer questions I have about the industry.”
- Send a thank you note the day after your meeting.
- Remember to keep to information gathering, the purpose of an informational meeting is not to ask about available employment.