Everything you should know about informational interviews

Last updated: July 20, 2024
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Rochelly Fajardo
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Everything you should know about informational interviews
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Do you want to work in a specific industry but don't know where to start? An informational interview could be the perfect way for you to learn more about a particular field and potentially land a job.

An informational interview is an excellent way to learn about specific industries or companies that interest you. Unlike traditional job interviews, informational interviews are usually one-on-one conversations with people who currently have the type of job you're seeking.

The point of an informational interview isn’t to get hired but to gather information and advice from someone who knows the ropes.

This article will tell you all the facts you need to know about informational interviews, from how to prepare to what questions to ask.

What is an informational interview?

An informational interview is a meeting between you and someone who works in the field or industry you're interested in. The end goal of an informational interview is not to get a job but rather to learn more about a certain occupation or company and find out if it's the right fit for you.

Informational interviews are usually one-on-one, although you may occasionally meet with a panel of people. The conversation is generally informal, and it's okay to take notes during the meeting.

Informational interviews can occur over the phone, through video chat, or in person. These meetings are typically arranged by networking or mutual connection, although it's also possible to reach out directly to someone you'd like to speak with.

It's also important to note that informational interviews are generally unpaid. However, you may ask the person you're meeting with if they'd be open to providing a letter of recommendation or referring you to other contacts in the field.

So if you're interested in working in a certain industry and want to learn more about what that job might entail, an informational interview is the perfect way to start.

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The benefits of an informational interview

Informational interviews are beneficial for both the job seeker and the person being interviewed. Studies show that 24% of hiring managers spend fewer than 30 seconds looking at a resume, highlighting the importance of networking in the job search process.

For the job seeker, an informational interview is a great way to learn about a certain industry or occupation. You can find out if it's the right fit for you and get valuable information from someone who knows the ins and outs of the field.

Informational interviews can also help you make connections with other workers in your industry of choice. If you impress the person you're interviewing, they may be willing to act as a reference or connect you with other people who could help you in your job search. Using a resource like Jobcase can provide connections to help you in your job search.

Informational interviews also provide an opportunity to:

Practice interview skills

One crucial skill that job seekers must develop is their ability to interview effectively. An informational interview is a way to practice your interviewing skills and help you feel more confident when it comes time for a traditional interview.

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that 47.3% of people who submit ten job applications will only receive one or two interviews. This shows how important it is to make a good impression when you do get the chance to interview.

Learn about an occupation or company

If you're not quite sure what type of job you want to pursue or are looking for a change of career path, an informational interview can help you learn more about certain industries or companies.

You can ask questions about the day-to-day responsibilities of certain jobs, the growth potential within the company or industry, and how to get your foot in the door.

Make network connections

As previously mentioned, one of the best things about informational interviews is the ability to create and keep an active network.

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By meeting with someone who works in your desired industry, you can get your name out there and build relationships with people who may eventually be able to help you land a job. You can also learn about different job openings or upcoming projects that may be a good fit for you.

Firsthand industry experience

In addition to making connections and learning about an occupation or company, an informational interview is also a great way to gain firsthand experience in your desired industry.

This can be especially helpful if you're considering a career change or are just starting in your chosen field. By meeting with someone who works in the industry, you can better understand what it's like to be in that career.

How to prepare for an informational interview

Preparation is key for any interview, but especially for informational interviews. You want to ensure you make a good impression and gather as much useful information as possible. While the steps you take may vary, there are a few general things to keep in mind:

1. Do your research

Learn what you can about the person you're meeting with, including their work history and any recent projects they've been involved with. You should also research the industry or company they work for to better understand what they do and how they can help you.

2. Make a list of questions to ask

Think about the information you want to learn during this interview, and prepare a list of relevant questions that dive beyond the basic job requirements. Remember to tailor your questions based on the person you're talking with and their specific experience and knowledge.

3. Practice, practice, practice

In addition to researching the person you're interviewing and preparing your questions, it's also important to practice your interviewing skills. This will help you feel ready to tackle the actual interview.

Don't be afraid to ask a friend or family member to help you practice so that you can get feedback and improve your interviewing skills.

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4. Dress professionally

Whether it's in person or over the phone, the way that you present yourself during an informational interview is important. You want to appear well-prepared and professional, so always dress in business attire and be sure to show up on time.

5. Make a good first impression

Once you walk into the room, your interviewer will start forming opinions about you. It's important to make a good first impression by arriving prepared and on time, making eye contact, giving a solid handshake, and speaking confidently and clearly.

6. Follow-up after the interview

Once you've finished your informational interview, send a thank-you note or email to the person you spoke with. This courtesy will help you stand out from other job seekers and maintain a good relationship with the person you interviewed.

Since the goal of an informational interview is not to get a job offer, sending this follow-up email demonstrates your professionalism and interest in their field.

While preparing for an informational interview is essential, you should also remember that these interviews are meant to be casual conversations. The goal is not to land a job but rather to gain information and insights about a particular industry, occupation, or company. So relax, be yourself, and enjoy the conversation.

Best informational interview practices

While there is no set format for an informational interview, following a standard set of best practices will help you prepare and make the most of this valuable opportunity.

Not everyone will have the same experience or approach, but there are a few things you can do to help make your informational interviews successful:

1. Come prepared with questions

As we mentioned before, it's important to come prepared with questions for your interviewer. This will show that you're interested in their field and want to learn more about it.

Not sure what to ask? Try preparing a list of questions ahead of time, focusing on specific areas of interest or relevant projects they've worked on.

2. Be respectful of their time

Informational interviews are meant to be brief conversations, so respecting your interviewer's time is important. This means keeping your questions focused and to the point and not going over the allotted time for the interview.

You can also try to schedule your informational interviews for a time when they're less likely to be busy, such as early in the morning or later in the afternoon. When in doubt, it's always best to ask how much time they have before getting started.

3. Be polite and respectful

Remember, this is a professional conversation. Be sure to be polite and respectful of your interviewer and treat them with the same level of respect you would with anyone else in a professional setting.

This means staying focused on the topic at hand, listening attentively, and making eye contact while talking. Avoid interrupting and be aware of your body language.

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4. Show your interest in the company

One of the goals of an informational interview is to show your interviewer that you're interested in their company or industry. You can do this by asking questions about their work, expressing interest in their projects, or even sharing your own experiences in the field.

This will demonstrate your enthusiasm and help you connect with your interviewer.

5. Be honest about your goals

While you should be polite and respectful of your interviewer, it's also important to be honest about your own goals.

For example, if you're using the informational interview to help find a job or internship at their company, be sure to let them know that upfront. This will give them a chance to share any opportunities they might have or make other suggestions about possible paths forward.

6. Keep an active network.

The best way to find informational interviews is by maintaining an active network of people in your field. This means staying connected with professionals you've met at previous events, joining relevant professional organizations, and taking advantage of opportunities like career fairs or networking mixers.

As you build your network and make connections, you'll be able to build a list of potential interviewers and connect with them when you're ready to start an informational interview.

You can add your connections on Jobcase to find people in your network who might be a good fit for an informational interview.

Remember, the key to a successful informational interview is finding people who are willing and able to share their knowledge and insights. So reach out, stay active, and enjoy the opportunity to learn more about your chosen field or industry.

Before reaching out to potential interviewees, it's good to have a list of questions prepared. This will help you make the most of your time and get the information you need. Here are some popular questions that job seekers often ask in informational interviews:

What led you to your current role?

This can help you learn more about someone's career journey and what they did to get where they are today. It can also give insight into their current work and how it fits into their overall career.

What are the day-to-day responsibilities of your job?

This question can help you gain a better understanding of what someone's work actually looks like. It can also help you assess whether your own goals and interests are aligned with their work.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

If you're considering a certain career path, knowing the challenges is helpful. This question can also help you learn more about how someone deals with difficult situations and what kind of problem-solving skills they have.

What types of projects do you work on?

You can gain valuable insights into someone's work and career by asking them about their current projects. This can also give an idea of what industries or opportunities are currently trending within your field.

What has been the most rewarding experience in your current role?

This question can help you learn about the best parts of someone's job and what they enjoy most. It can also show you how they balance their personal and professional lives, which is important to consider in your own career planning.

What do you see as the future of the industry/company?

This can help you learn about the trends, opportunities, and challenges facing a particular industry or company. It can also give insight into what professionals in your field are looking for in candidates.

What changes have occurred in the industry/company during your time there?

Industries and companies are constantly changing. This can help you learn about the evolution of a person's field and how they've adapted to those changes.

This question can help you learn about what resources and tools someone relies on to stay informed in their field. It can also provide you with insight into how they continue to grow and improve over time.

What advice would you have for someone just starting in this industry or role?

This is one of the most important questions you can ask during an informational interview. It can help you learn about the biggest challenges you’ll face and what to expect in your chosen field or role. It can also give you some valuable guidance as you begin your career journey.

How did you get started in your career?

This is another excellent question that can help you learn about someone's career journey. It can point you toward useful resources and helpful tips for getting started in your own field or role.

What do you find most fulfilling about your work?

One of the best ways to gauge whether a certain career is right for you is to ask someone how fulfilled they feel in their work. This question can also help you learn what motivates someone and what they value most in their job.

Do you work with any other professionals daily?

This can help you learn more about the kinds of people you may be working with within a certain career. It can also give insight into how work is done at various organizations and whether their culture might be a good fit.

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Other common informational interview topics include:

  • Professional development

  • Career preparation

  • Tips for landing a job or internship

  • Advice for navigating the job market

You can use these questions to help you customize your own informational interview experience and learn more about your chosen field or role.

Schedule your next informational interview

Schedule your next informational interview if you’re ready to gain insight into a particular career or role.

If you take the time to research and prepare for your meeting, you'll be sure to walk away with valuable information and a better understanding of what you're looking for in your next career move.

Visit the Jobcase Connections and Networking Resource Center if you need additional help preparing for your next interview.

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