The Informational Interview

During an Informational Interview the roles are reversed. This time you are asking the questions. The purpose is for you to gain information and interview advice that will help you in the job hunt, and your career as a whole.

The real story

The informational interview gives you access to a real person performing a real job. You can gain a much more in depth picture of a role than you might from reading a company website or other one sided/“promotional” material.

The interview is directed by you

You are in control and you can ask the questions you want to ask. This can be a valuable part of your job interview information.

Access to privileged information

When asking your own questions in an interview you would normally need to follow certain rules, such as knowing when and how to talk about benefits and salary. During an informational interview you don’t have these constraints so you can gather this type of information without damaging your chances in the interview.

So are you convinced yet? If you are looking to set up an informational interview here is how to go about it.

Find Suitable subjects to interview

The information you gain is only as good as the person who supplies it, so the onus is on you to seek and find access to the people who can help you most.

Who will be able to provide you with information and insight into the role? Do you have any family or friends who you could interview? This is the easiest route, but if not, widen your search to include your professional network and colleagues, past and present. If you are still struggling you can try using business directories for contact details of people in positions you want to learn about.

To learn more about sources of interview help – click here

Decide what you want to know

Do your research first so you know as much as you can about the role. Make the most of your informational interview by using it to find out things you wouldn’t be able to learn otherwise. Maximise the value of your time with your subject. Set yourself a list of objectives for the interview and design a set of questions to help you find out what you need to know.

Arrange the interview

Get in touch with your interview subject to arrange the details. The wonders of modern technology mean you don’t have to conduct the interview face to face – over the phone is fine if that works for you.

Let them know the purpose of your interview and why you have chosen them (a little flattery can work wonders here, so let them know what it is specifically they can offer).

Work out how much time you will need to ask them to give, and be wary of asking too much, 15 to 25 minutes should do.

Do the interview! Here are some final guidelines/tips for you

Be professional

That means be on time, be polite, and be dressed in business attire. It is a business meeting after all

Be prepared

If you want to make the most of it you need to know what you want to cover

Take notes

You want to be able to use this information after all. Once the interview is over you can put together a more detailed account.

Thank your interviewee for their time

Send a thank you letter or email, and let them know how you progress in your job hunt. Not only is this good manners, but it helps to widen your network of career contacts for the future. You never know when they might be able to help you again.

Go to part 2: Informational interview questions

Return from informational interview to interview types

Return from informational interview to interview tips home