What Is An Informational Interview And What Are They For?
Informational interviews (also called informational meetings or research interviews) are a conversation you can have with an industry professional in order to get inside information and advice on a particular industry, role, company or career path, based on their own experience. Phew.
Informational interviews are usually conducted by students, graduates or people looking for a career change, and can be done in person, via email or Zoom/phone calls.
Basically, it’s a chat that can help you get a job, not necessarily through receiving an offer, but by gaining knowledge other candidates might not have and making a new connection.
Who Should I Approach?
Who you approach for an informational interview depends on what you want to get out of it. For example if you want to work for a particular company or business, approach someone working for that company (in a different role to the one you’d apply for). Or if there was a particular job role you’d like, find someone who works in that exact job role (in a different company to the one you’d apply for, you get the idea).
It’s always best to approach someone you either have a warm connection with, or someone you can get a warm introduction to. One of your university’ alumni, someone your lecturer or family friend knows – use LinkedIn to stalk to your heart’s content or even a company’s website and social media platforms. Get your detective cap on and do your research.
How To Ask For An Informational Interview
Reaching out to ask for an informational interview is always best done via email, as it’s way more professional and you can take your time to craft the perfect message.
Here’s some things to keep in mind when writing your email:
- Keep it short and to the point
- Create familiarity wherever possible (e.g. mentioning a mutual connection, that you went to the same uni etc.)
- Be considerate with what you’re asking for (e.g. 15-20 minute chat if they’re busy)
- Propose some dates/times or if you’re feeling ultra-organised create a Calendly link where they can pick a date/time that works best for them and offer to travel to them if you’re after an in-person meeting
- Don’t make it seem like you’re just after a job – make it clear you’re after their help and guidance
- Flattery can get you everywhere, if they’ve done something impressive, worked on something you love or they inspire you, let them know!
If you don’t hear back from them within a week, send a follow up email. Do this in the same thread as the first one so it’s easy for them to find your original email and politely remind them that you’re keen to speak with them and learn from their expertise. A bit of flattery here wouldn’t go amiss.
How Do I Prepare And Conduct An Informational Interview?
Preparing for an informational interview is all about planning. Obviously.
First of all, consider your goals. Do you want to learn more about their personal career journey, the company they work for, the industry as a whole or their day-to-day job role? From here you can write a list of questions (keeping in mind how long you’ll have to chat with them, don’t come in with 953530831 questions) and group them into categories or a natural order to keep on track.
Remember, only ask questions you can’t research anywhere else – chances are you’ll have limited time so don’t waste their time with stuff you could have Googled in 5 mins. It’s also a good idea to research the person you’re interviewing so you already have an idea of who they are and what they’ve done. You can also use this research to find even more common ground to talk about.
Begin your informational interview by thanking them, and start by asking about them to break the ice. (Grad Soc Top Tip: People love to talk about themselves). You should also be prepared to talk about yourself, what you’re up to and your future career goals, so practice having an elevator pitch.
The most important thing here is to remember that it’s a conversation. At the end of the day you’re just having a chat with another human being, so don’t get freaked out! It’s also worth adding in at the end if there’s anyone they recommend you to connect with or speak to – this is an opportunity to get more warm introductions.
After a bit of practice? Why not book a 1-1 interview coaching session with a member of The Grad Soc team to make sure you’re set up for success.
What Do You Do Afterwards?
ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS send a thank you message within 24 hours. ALWAYS. Did you get that? The person you interviewed took time out of their busy schedule to help you out, so make sure you convey how grateful you are. If you really want to impress, reiterate key points from your conversation to show you listened and took their advice on board. It’s also worth considering how you can keep in touch with them, whether that’s dropping them a LinkedIn message every few weeks, sending them industry articles you think they’d like or even asking them to mentor you (if you really hit it off). You’ve got the connection, now you need to maintain it.
Can You Get A Job From An Informational Interview?
Yes, you can get a job from an informational interview, but it’s not a guarantee. You should never go into one with that intention. They can tell when you do. According to research, one out of every 12 informational interviews results in a job offer, but even if that doesn’t come your way, there’s a couple of other ways informational interviews can open up opportunities. You’ve got inside info now which can help you in your job applications, plus an industry connection who could recommend you for future roles! You never know where it might lead.