At the company I work for, informational interviews are not only allowed, they’re encouraged. What’s exactly is an informational interview? It’s a great way for you to speak to someone who is either in a career you’re looking to get into, or perhaps someone who works for a company you’d like to find more information about. In short, with the proper strategy, an informational interview is an excellent tool used by the job seeker to gather information they’ll need in order to be successful with their job search.
For example, after several years in the job market, I decided I might want to move to New York and work for VH-1 networks in their marketing department. A contact of mine knew the Director of Marketing, and after a couple of phone calls, I made an appointment to speak with him to discuss his role, the types of people he liked to hire, and, most importantly, his career background.
One important thing you must remember is that an informational interview is NOT a job interview, where you’re interviewing for a specific position. It’s an opportunity for you to get “your foot in the door” and hopefully help you to be remembered should a job opening become available. Additionally, it’s a great way for you to chat with someone in a job position you might like to transition into.
Here are a few pointers which have served me well when I’ve tried to set up an informational interview:
Determine Why You Want An Informational Interview
Do you want to know more about their background? Perhaps you’re changing careers and want more information about a specific career. Or, maybe, you’re looking for your first job and need to get some face-to-face time with a hiring manager. Whatever your situation, have a strategy!
If you don’t know someone at the company you’re interested in conducting the information interview at, call their main number, ask friends who might know someone, or use your current business contacts.
Call or email the person you’d like to conduct your information interview with. Be polite, concise, and brief if you speak with them on the phone. Ideally, get them on the phone. Messages may not be returned. Explain who you are, how you got their name (if applicable) and would they possibly have 15-20 minutes to speak with you in person any time in the next few weeks?
If they say no, be polite and thank them for their time. If yes, congratulations! Remember to stick to the time allotted, unless they suggest meeting for a longer period of time. You’re here to interview them, not the other way around. However, they may ask for a copy of your resume, so have a neat copy of your resume available only if they ask for it.
Nothing makes a better impression than a nice thank you card or email. Be brief, polite, and thank them for their time. Send your thank you card or email the day after you meet with them. And, be sure to keep them posted of any new contacts, job leads etc. you have followed up on in case they gave you any leads during your informational interview.