An informational interview can be a great tool for advancing in your chosen career while gaining valuable knowledge. It is important to learn how to use informational interviewing effectively. As is the case in all aspects of job hunting, research and preparation are the key to success.
An informational interview is set up in order for you to learn more about a particular career path. While this is a great tool for students who are about to graduate and are trying to find the career that is right for them, such an interview can also be helpful for anyone thinking about a career or position change. During your interview, you will learn about the skills necessary for a given job and about the potential paths that may lead from it. This will help you figure out if a given area will be a good fit for you.
Benefits of Informational Interviewing
Your interview can provide a great setting for you to learn about the ins and outs of a position you are thinking about, the general area of expertise necessary, as well as potential future careers. This information will be of great use to you in determining whether a certain type of employment matches your skills and interests and in clarifying your professional future.
One of the chief benefits of setting up an informational interview is the resulting networking. You will get to know people in key positions in the field of your choice, who will be able to provide you with valuable information and may also facilitate your employment in the future. If you make a favorable impression, these people are likely to keep you in mind for future positions that will open up.
If you are searching for immediate employment, such an interview will also give you the opportunity to learn about a specific company or office without making an official job commitment. There is no better way to learn what a position is really like than talking with people who are already familiar with it.
Preparing for an Informational Interview
Even though this is not a formal job interview, remember that you should be on your best interview behavior. Although it is technically less formal, an informational interview can and often does result in employment, if you play your cards right. This means presenting yourself professionally through your mode of dress and your demeanor.
One cardinal rule of informational interviewing is never to ask for a job. You are there because the interviewee responded to your request for information about the field and they kindly agreed to share their knowledge and experience with you. Do not let them feel that you obtained the interview under false pretenses. If you are fortunate, they may offer a job or an internship without you asking, or let you know about an open position. If they do not offer, you have still received valuable knowledge and gained an important contact in the field of your choice.
Do your research. At this interview, you will be asking most of the questions. Be sure that your questions are well thought-out and based on research you have done about the company and the field you are interviewing in. Keep in mind that this is also a networking opportunity. You want your interlocutor to remember you as intelligent, thoughtful and well-informed. Prepare your questions in advance and be ready with follow-up questions. Listen attentively, conveying your interest and responding to what the interviewee is telling you. Feel free to take notes, but do not forget to respond and maintain appropriate eye contact.
Although you will be asking most of the questions, the person you are interviewing may ask you some as well. Be prepared to respond articulately to queries about what sparked your interest in the field, as well as your background and experience. Let your interest and passion shine through. Bring your resume but do not produce it unless you are asked to.
When your interview draws to a close, be sure that you appropriately express your appreciation for the interviewee’s willingness to give his or her time to help you. Sending a thank-you e-mail afterwards is a nice touch as well.
An informational interview can be a valuable tool to guide you in your chosen career. In addition to being an important source of knowledge, informational interviewing can be an effective form of networking, gaining you contacts in your professional field. Be sure to prepare thoroughly in order to get the most out of your interview.