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
How to set up and conduct an Informational Interview
- 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)
Overcoming your fears about this activity
Sometimes returners find it hard to ask for help in this way as they question what it is they can offer in return. Just remember:
- 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
Posted by Katerina