What is an Informational Interview?
The start of a new academic year is often a time when returners start thinking about going back to work. If you are at the stage where you are considering a variety of options, you’ll need to do some detailed research to help you to narrow your focus or even generate new ideas before embarking on a full job search. An essential source of information is people who have done or are doing the kinds of roles you are interested in: the way to approach them is by requesting an informational interview.
Informational interviewing is absolutely NOT about asking for a job and it is vital to separate the two. When both parties understand this, it takes away any discomfort about the meeting and allows for a more relaxed and informative conversation.
Uses of Informational Interviewing
Information interviewing is a research activity, for gathering data and getting advice. The range of potential uses include:
- Finding out about the skills and qualities needed for a particular role that you are investigating and any specific qualifications that are required
- Understanding the content of a role and the day-to-day responsibilities
- Learning how a specific company is on the inside – information which isn’t communicated on the website e.g. the company culture and values and what it is like to be an employee
- Gaining industry sector insight and finding out practical market realities
- Making new contacts in your field of interest
- Identify people in the role you are researching via your own contacts, LinkedIn or other networks (eg. alumni groups)
- Contact people directly or request an introduction from your network
- Email the person to ask for a short meeting or phone call: 15-20 minutes is a good length
- Make it clear that you are looking for information, not a job. Don’t send your CV unless you are asked for it
- Prepare your questions to make the best use of your time and keep the conversation friendly, brief and focused
- Always send a thank you to the person you met (as well as the person who introduced you)
- People enjoy being asked for their advice and to talk about themselves and their careers
- The people you are meeting may well have been in your position themselves and they know the value of the activity you are doing
- Often people in a role don’t make time to read about current industry trends and news. As you gather insight, you may have useful, up-to-date knowledge to share with the people you are meeting