Informational Interviews

November is National Career Development Month!

In honor of National Career Development Month, I am resurrecting some career advice posts, and adding some new ones over the course of the month.


Informational Interviews

Why do an informational interview?

4 Types of Informational Interviews

  1. Face to face
    • The best because you will get to practice discussing your skills and abilities in person and you may be able to get  a feel for the work environment first hand.
  2. Phone
    • Good because you still get to speak to someone.
  3. E-mail
    • While this is acceptable it may make it harder to form and maintain a personal connection, you won’t get a feel for the environment,  and you may not have the opportunity for follow-up questions.
  4. Virtual
    • Whether you use Skype, Facetime, or something else, a virtual informational interview may be a good option if you are looking to learn about company that is woman using silver iphone x while leaning on wall and smilingnot local or you want to connect with the person but scheduling a face-to-face meeting is becoming too difficult. Just be sure that you will have a good connection and that you are familiar with whatever program/app you are using. Testing it out beforehand with a friend is always a good idea. Virtual informational interviews may not help you get a feel for the actual work place, but it will allow the interviewer to see you, and that helps with forming a more meaningful connection.  Be sure to set your call up in a place that is clean – remember the person on the other end can SEE YOU!



Getting the Informational Interview

1. Research the Company/Organization. Check out their website and any materials you may have. This will make you look good! It will also help you create meaningful and thoughtful questions. Know their mission, the backgrounds of the employees,

2. Initial phone call to ask for the interview. Have a calendar and some dates in mind. Be prepared to explain why you want this interview. Try to see if you can get a face to face meeting but if the individual is hesitant/busy schedule a phone interview.

3. Create Interview Questions. Do this before the interview so you can review the questions and be thorough.


The Interview

1. Dress Professionally
  • No jeans or sneakers (this applies to most situations. If you are interviewing in a more casual profession it might be a little different. But it is always better to err on the side of caution)
  • When it comes to make-up…less is more. Trust me. I have done a lot of interviews.
  • Make sure your outfit matches
  • Of course, I always encourage clients to be themselves


2. Arrive on time
  • 5 minutes early is on time
  • 20 minutes is too early
  • On time is late
3. Bring your questions
  • Be Prepared to be the lead in this interview! You asked for the interview to learn more. You are going to be asking the questions…be prepared!
  • Questions should show that you did research about the company/organization but want more information.
  • Acceptable topics/questions
    • Asking how the person found themselves in this particular career/job
    • What they like most (and least) about the company/organization
    • What their day-to-day looks like
    • How they see the field changing in the next 5-10 years
    • How you can prepare yourself to work in this field (coursework, internships, professional experience, networking, etc)
  • Do not ask about salary or job opportunities.
4. Bring a pad/pen to take notes and be sure to ask permission to write or tape record before you begin
5. Maintain eye contact
6. Be a good listener
  • Don’t interrupt
  • Ask follow up questions
  • Minimize distractions
After the Interview
Send a Thank You card/e-mail. In this day and age everything is done electronically and many people expect instant follow-up. You may want to send a brief e-mail thank you followed by a brief thank you note in the mail. I feel that if you have had any communication with the person via e-mail then an e-mail thank you is just fine.
You can also connect on LinkedIn. I only recommend this if your LinkedIn Profile is edited and current.
Have you ever done an informational interview? What did you learn?

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