Janice Reed
Community Specialist
Community Specialist
10 steps to prepare for an informational interview
Last updated: June 25, 2022
Janice Reed
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10 steps to prepare for an informational interview
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Job seekers will often hear about how important it is to nail a job interview. But did you know that job interviews aren’t the only type of interview job seekers need to know about?

Informational interviews are another powerful tool that job seekers can use to get clarity on an industry or career field, find out more about specific career paths, and even grow their network. They can provide insight that job seekers will rarely find anywhere else.

Let’s explore how informational interviews work, why they’re important for job seekers, and how you can prepare for one.

What is an informational interview?

An informational interview is a type of interview in which you have a conversation with someone who works at a company — or in an industry — that you’re interested in working in. This person can have a position you could see yourself working in someday. Or, this person might have insight into the role you want right now.

Informational interviews usually consist of two people — you and the professional you want to learn from. But it’s possible to interview more than one person. It’s also possible for more than one person to interview the same professional.

During an informational interview, you can ask questions about:

  • Their industry or career field — what the realities of this industry are, what types of companies exist.

  • Career path — how it can progress from different starting positions, different options for branching paths.

  • The company — perks and benefits, company culture, working conditions, and climate.

  • Specific roles — what skills it takes to succeed, what someone’s day-to-day activities look and feel like.

These are just examples, but you can ask anything that feels appropriate based on what you’d like to know about potential job opportunities.

What is the difference between a job interview and an informational interview?

In a job interview, you’re the interviewee. Hiring managers or recruiters interview you to judge if you’d be a good fit for a position. You need to be ready to answer difficult questions and explain what you’d do in various scenarios.

You can ask questions at an interview, and it’s even a good idea to do so. But, it’ll mostly be the interviewer doing the asking. The main goal is to get hired.

Informational interviews are different. In this case, you’re the interviewer. The purpose isn’t for you to get a job — it’s for you to get information. Your interviewee isn’t considering you for a position.

4 benefits of conducting an informational interview

Why should you seek someone out for an informational interview in the first place?

If you’re a job seeker, there are several reasons you should look into this underused tool.

Here are four benefits you can get from these types of interviews.

1. Grow your professional network

Informational interviews give you access to working professionals who can become a contact for you. Because of this, you can build a relationship with the person you’ll be interviewing. This, in turn, helps you grow your network.

Your network is made up of every person you know and the people they know. The healthier you keep your network, the more likely you are to hear about job opportunities from people you know.

Sure, you don’t use informational interviews to get a job directly. But, you never know what doors that relationship will open in the future.

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2. Get information on taboo topics

Asking about benefits and salary ranges during a job interview isn’t the best way to get the job. That’s usually more appropriate once you get an offer on the table.

But informational interviews are designed to help you get information. You’re freer to ask about taboo topics like that when you aren’t actively getting considered for the job. The more information you have, the more prepared you’ll be when you do get a job offer. You’ll be in a better place to negotiate if they offer you things like a sign-on bonus for lower pay.

Plus, the stronger your relationship with the interviewee, the more comfortable you should feel about asking these questions. There are probably people you know right now that you haven’t considered talking to about the details of their work yet. There’s a lot you could uncover about yourself and your potential by doing so.

3. Discover new career paths

Not all career paths are well-known to the public. You’d be surprised what career paths they don’t tell people about in school. For instance, did you know about soap boilers or IMAX screen cleaners?

These are just some examples, but there are endless career paths you may not have considered. And the best way to learn about new interesting job opportunities is to interview people. You might discover your new potential dream job by speaking with someone who works in that industry.

4. Tailor your resume

Do you send the same resume to every job opening you see? This can work when you’re applying for several jobs at once. But when you have a bit of insider information, a tailored resume can boost your chances of getting noticed.

72% of employers say they value job seekers with specific skill sets. But it’s difficult to know which companies value which skill sets without talking to someone who works there.

You can gain insight into what skills an organization values when you have an informational interview with someone with experience. In turn, you can use this insight to tailor your resume for the next time you’re applying for a job at that organization. Put emphasis on the right details before applying there — just don’t make anything up to fit the requirements.

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10 steps to prepare for an informational interview

There’s a lot involved in an informational interview. It can be tough to think about everything when you find yourself in front of someone you admire.

Here are ten steps you can use to prepare for your informational interview and get the most out of it.

1. Start by doing your research on the company

It would be a shame to waste the valuable time you have with your interviewee by asking questions anyone can answer with a quick Google search. To that end, find out what you can about the company beforehand.

You can look for details like:

  • The company mission statement

  • What services and products the company offers

  • What positions are available publicly right now

  • The company’s history

  • Certain FAQs

You can tailor your questions based on what you already know once you’ve done this initial research. Taking this extra step will help you maximize your time with your interviewee. You’ll get to ask questions that only a person in the know would be able to answer. For everything else, you’ll always have the Internet.

2. Prepare your Jobcase profile and resume before reaching out

Before you even ask anyone for an informational interview, take some time to prep your Jobcase profile. You’ll be able to make a better first impression when you reach out to them, especially if they decide to do their research on you before answering.

Update your information, including your top skills. If you haven’t already, make sure to upload the most recent version of your resume. And make sure you improve your resume if it’s too outdated.

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3. Connect with your interviewee on Jobcase and find out about them

Once your profile is ready, connect with your interviewee on Jobcase. Find out the most information you can about them.

For example, you can find out about their history. Maybe you have something in common, like graduating from the same high school. Or maybe you’ll find out that they had a sudden change in careers, which is something interesting you’ll be able to ask about.

Read up on any of their conversations in the community to find out how they’re involved. If, for instance, they’ve made an achievement recently, you can use that as an icebreaker when you reach out to them.

4. Set a time that works for all parties

When you reach out, take on the labor of finding a time.

So what can this look like? Provide a few time slots that work for you. Don’t overwhelm them by asking them for a long block of time — 30 minutes is the maximum amount of time you should ask for.

Stay flexible in case the times you suggest don’t work for your potential interviewee. Remember, they’re doing you a favor, and they may be busy.

5. Prepare a list of questions

Want to learn the most you can from your informational interview? Don’t improvise your questions on the spot.

To make the most of your informational interview, you’ll want to make sure you cover every topic you want to learn about. Even if you’re confident you can stay on your toes and keep the conversation going, you never know how the conversation will go. It’s easy to forget about an important topic if you get swept up in a fascinating chat.

You can ask specific questions, but make sure you prepare some open-ended questions that open the door to complex answers.

Prepare your questions ahead of time in a notebook. Avoid writing questions on your phone. Even if you don’t intend to get distracted, getting your phone out during an interview will look unprofessional. Your interviewee should have your full attention.

6. Practice your introduction

Have an introduction ready before the interview so that you can greet your interviewee in a professional way. If you don’t feel confident, practice your introduction with a friend, family member, or roommate.

Here are some tips to use when you introduce yourself before the interview:

  • Use eye contact when greeting the other person.

  • If you’re sitting down while waiting for them somewhere, stand up when they come to greet you.

  • Smile and give a handshake (as long as it’s appropriate to do so).

  • Acknowledge every person involved if more than one person is present.

  • Thank the person for meeting with you and remind them that you value their time.

Your interviewee may ask you some questions about yourself. Have something at the back of your mind ready, just in case. You can speak about your past work experience, if you have any, or list some of your skills and your career goals.

7. Learn how to ask questions and listen

Ask your initial question, then listen actively as your interviewee answers. Come up with follow-up questions to clarify any details if you think about something. Just make sure you don’t interrupt them while they’re still talking.

8. Bring a notepad

A notepad is useful for taking notes. You can even list your prepared questions in that notepad and give yourself some space in between each question to take your notes.

But taking a notepad or notebook along to the interview is also useful to show you’re dedicated to learning from this experience.

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9. Arrive early

Plan to arrive earlier than the time of your interview. Remember that you asked for this time, which means you should respect it.

Many businesses value punctuality. But planning to arrive early is also useful when something unexpected happens. For instance, if you miss the first bus and have to catch the next one, you’ll arrive just in time instead of being late.

If you’re doing your informational interview remotely, it also helps to make sure you’re ready to go ten minutes early. This way, if you run into any technical issues, you can solve those before the interview begins.

10. Follow up and stay connected with your interviewee

Your relationship shouldn’t end when the interview does. Treat it as the beginning of something wonderful and valuable.

Continue nurturing that relationship beyond the interview. Stay connected on social media and follow up after the interview to thank them for their time. You can also follow up from time to time to see what they’re up to or offer support if it makes sense.

Get ready to nail your informational interview

When you take the appropriate steps to prepare adequately, an informational interview can be one of the best tools to help you find the perfect job that suits your personality and lifestyle.

One of the best ways to find people for an informational interview is to connect with more professionals. Join Jobcase for free to connect with a growing community of professionals, job seekers, and like-minded workers.

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