Have you ever found yourself wondering how to break into a new industry or where you can gain insights into a particular career path? Informational interviews can allow you to ask questions about a company or a career field before you formally apply. These meetings can unlock valuable knowledge, expand your professional network and accelerate your career growth.
Here’s everything you need to know about what informational interviews are, why you should request one and how to go about setting up and conducting these invaluable conversations.
What is an informational interview?
An informational interview is a one-on-one conversation between you and someone working in an industry, role or organization you’re interested in. The purpose of this informal meeting is to gather information, advice and insights from someone with firsthand experience. Informational interviews are not job interviews, so you won’t be asking questions about specific job openings or asking for a job directly. Instead, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the industry and job category you are interested in, learn about potential career paths and build relationships that could lead to future opportunities.
Here are a few of the great benefits of requesting an informational interview:
Gain insider information
Informational interviews offer an opportunity to ask key questions and learn about the ins and outs of a particular role or industry from someone who’s “been there, done that.”
Expand your network
Establishing connections with professionals in your desired field can open doors to potential job opportunities, mentorships or referrals.
Improve your interview skills
These conversations can help you practice communicating effectively and confidently as a job seeker, which will prove useful during actual job interviews.
How to ask for an informational interview
Reaching out to professionals to ask for an informational interview can seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. LinkedIn, for example, is a career-focused networking space where questions about a person’s role or industry are incredibly common.
Think of it this way — a growth-oriented company is always looking for new talent and wants job seekers to show interest. If you find someone who loves what they do, they will probably also love talking about it and relish the chance to answer your questions. Here are some tips on how to ask for an informational interview.
Start by identifying professionals in your desired field, role or organization. LinkedIn is an excellent resource for this — you can search for people by job title, industry or company, and even filter by location or shared connections.
Once you’ve found potential informational interviewees, send them a connection request or message with your question. Be sure to personalize your request by mentioning shared connections or interests and explaining why you’re reaching out. Keep it brief and respectful.
Clearly state that you’re looking to conduct an informational interview and provide context about your career goals or interests. Let them know you value their time and are only seeking 20-30 minutes of their expertise.
Offer a range of dates and times when you request an informational interview, and be willing to accommodate the interviewee’s schedule. Be open to conducting the interview in person, over the phone or via video call.
I’m a communications student at Georgetown. I’m interested in event management after I graduate, and I’d love to hear more about your experience working with DC Event Planners. Do you have 20 minutes for a quick meet-up or phone call?
Some people will respectfully decline, but you may be surprised by how many people say yes.
Questions to ask during an informational interview
Now that you’ve successfully secured an informational interview, it’s time to prepare a list of thoughtful questions to ask. Here are some suggestions to get you started:
- Can you describe a typical day in your role?
- What do you enjoy most about your job, and what are the biggest challenges?
- How did you get started in this industry, and what steps did you take to reach your current position?
- What skills or qualifications are most important for success in this role or industry?
- Can you recommend any resources (books, websites, professional associations) for someone looking to learn more about this field?
- What career advice do you have for someone looking to break into this industry or transition into a similar role?
- Are there any upcoming networking events or industry conferences you’d recommend attending?
- Can you suggest other professionals I should speak with to gain further insights into this field?
Following up and thanking the interviewer
Once you’ve completed your informational interview and asked all of your key questions, it’s time to follow up. The follow-up is a crucial step in the informational interview process, as it helps solidify the relationship you’ve built with the interviewee and demonstrates your gratitude for their time and insights.
Send a thank-you note
Within 24 hours of the interview, send a personalized thank-you email or handwritten note to the interviewee. Express your appreciation for their time, reiterate what you found most valuable from the conversation and mention any next steps you plan to take based on their advice.
Connect on LinkedIn
If you haven’t already, add your informational interviewee on LinkedIn with a personalized connection request. This will help you stay in touch and keep up-to-date with their professional journey.
As you make progress in your career journey, don’t hesitate to share updates with the interviewee. They’ll likely be interested in hearing about how their advice has helped you, and it’s a great way to maintain the relationship.
Pay it forward
As your career progresses, be open to conducting informational interviews for others who may want to ask questions about your career path. Sharing your knowledge and experience can make a significant impact on someone else’s career journey.
Accelerate your success with Whitman Associates
Requesting an informational interview to ask your connection key questions is a powerful networking tool that can provide valuable insights into your desired career path, expand your professional network and hone your communication skills. By being proactive in requesting and conducting these interviews, you’ll be well on your way to unlocking new career opportunities and achieving your professional goals.
When you’re ready to further your career search, remember that Whitman Associates can help — saving you precious time and money on your journey. As a trusted partner in professional staffing since 1972, our knowledgeable and friendly team is dedicated to matching your unique skills and aspirations with the perfect opportunities. Send your resume to firstname.lastname@example.org to get started.