Today you will set up three informational interviews with professionals at any of your target companies. An informational interview is an extremely useful tool for collecting information about an industry, job, or company.
An informational interview is also a terrific networking opportunity because it allows you to meet and get to know industry insiders. If you make a strong impression, the insider might even keep you in mind when the company has a future job opening.
Who and How to Ask for an Interview
Informational interviews give you an insider’s firsthand experiences and impressions of a particular occupation, company, or industry. Therefore, who you select to give you this inside information is important.
Go through your list of target companies to see if you have any contacts at these companies. Look through your LinkedIn contact list to find connections. If a friend of a friend knows someone at one of your target companies, ask your friend to introduce you, via email or in person.
Most colleges and universities also have databases of alumni who are willing to offer career advice to students or other alums. Search any available databases for connections.
Select three people who work in a similar field or industry to your own. Contact them, reminding them how you are connected, and asking to arrange a time to meet to discuss career opportunities or to gain industry insight.
5 Tips for the Informational Interview
- Be professional: These interviews are business appointments, so you should conduct yourself in a professional manner. Come to the appointment on time. Dress in a professional manner that is fitting with the industry in which the interviewee works. Be sure you know the name of the person you are meeting, the correct pronunciation of his/her name, and the title of his/her position.
- Ask the right questions: The interview will be guided by your questions, so come to the interview with some questions prepared. You can ask questions that may be less appropriate for a typical first job interview (questions regarding salary, benefits, vacation, etc.). You can discuss what is done on a day-to-day basis and relate it to your own interests.
- Do not ask for a job: Remember that this interview is about gaining information. You are not applying for a job. While you should certainly explain your interest in the job or company, and explain why you think it might be an ideal position for you, do not let this dominate the conversation. Focus on learning from the interviewee rather than telling him or her why you deserve a job.
- Take notes: Consider taking a limited amount of notes in order to keep track of all the information you obtain. Make sure that your note-taking does not interrupt communication between the two of you. Immediately after the interview, sketch a brief outline of the topics covered and your overall impression of the industry/job/company discussed.
- Follow up: Write a thank you note to all the people you interview. Send them any follow-up questions you may have. Continue to keep in touch with your contacts after the interviews. This will increase the likelihood that they will offer you assistance with your job search in the future.