How to Conduct an Informational Interview?
Informational interviews are conducted in order to find new information regarding a particular industry or company by talking to people one already knows or to those who have been referred to one.
Identify an Occupation or Career Path
The first step in conducting an informational interview is to identify what your career path is. Deciding which industry, company or position you see yourself in would depend on your own interests, values, skills and abilities. If you aren’t sure about what occupation your most desired job fits in you could take some career assessment tests or you could explore the Career Wiki listen on CCO’s website.
Once you have identified the industry or particular job you want to find out about, identify people that may connect you to others in those jobs or industries. Start with lists of people you already know: friends, fellow students, present or former co-workers, supervisors, neighbors, professors, etc. Review your online social networks — Facebook friends, LinkedIn contacts, and Twitter followers. You could request people you come across, to speak with you about their career path since graduation and about their current company, as per their convenience. You may also call an organization and ask for the name of the person by job title. There’s no one in the world you can’t try contacting. People like to help students out with job information.
Schedule an Appointment
Try to schedule an interview time with your contact person depending on their convenience. They may be only available for a 30-minute phone interview or they may be willing to meet you for lunch. Usually if you seem interested enough, and don’t come out too strong about getting a job, then they will be more than happy to help you out. Some times people may refuse to help you out, but don’t get discouraged because sometimes people are too busy to make time.
Prepare! Prepare! Prepare!
Prepare a list of questions that you would like answered. Research the organization, person you’ll be speaking with, product produced by the organization, etc. If your contact is an alumni, look them up in the alumni office’s biographical material. You could also try venues such as Facebook and LinkedIn.
The more you know, the better you’ll be able to formulate questions pertaining to the organization and job. The more knowledge you have, the more confident you will feel about your ability to communicate effectively. Even though you can conduct most of your research on the organization’s website, consider writing to request brochures and pamphlets for additional information.
Also, remember the time of this interview is limited, so you would want to stay focused on the key information that would help you with your career decisions.
NEVER ask for an interview
A common mistake made by people is to confuse an informational interview with a job interview. When people agree to help you out they are convinced that the interview is just for informational purposes only; they would feel deceived if you ask for a job during anytime in the interview. The fact that you are true to your word would set you apart from other candidates that approach them only for the purpose of seeking a job.
Ask for other contacts in the field. If no names are suggested, be grateful for information or suggestions that are obtained through the interview process.
Thank you and follow up letters
Thank the person at the conclusion of the interview, but also send them a thank you letter in appreciation for his or her time and patience. This letter could refer back to something you discussed in the interview that was really helpful. You may also want to stay in touch with your contacts by writing notes or emails, informing the person how helpful his suggestions have been to you. One can never be sure of when this contact person could be helpful to you again in the future.