During an informational interview, a person is not asking for a job, but is seeking to gather data from a professional about a certain career or project he is interested in pursuing. An informational interview is either conducted face to face or over the phone and typically lasts less than an hour. The interview also validates or dispels a person’s perceptions and provides a valuable contact within the field of interest.
Locating a person for an interview can come about through various avenues. Interviews can be arranged through contacts of an individual’s friends or family. In addition, a contact can come through careful research by reading business papers, trade publications, and social media outlets. A person’s alumni network can also provide a valuable source for contacts for informational interviews.
Like a job interview, an informational interview requires a person to do his homework. An individual should know as much as possible about the person he is interviewing. Reading a company’s Web site or annual reports can provide valuable insight. Performing a Google search may also help to bring important information to light.
A person should set up an informational interview at the convenience of the interviewee, as he is the one doing a favor. If meeting face to face, a person should dress professionally, just as if he was attending a job interview. The person conducting an interview should arrive ahead of time and remember that another person’s time is valuable and not to exceed an agreed upon time limit. Prior to conducting an informational interview, it is common courtesy to ask permission to take notes or use a tape recorder.
When conducting an informational interview, a person will want to be prepared with a list of open-ended questions. Questions will vary, depending on the situation. However, there are some general questions one will want to ask. Generally, a person will want to know how a professional broke into the specific field, what he likes most about his position, and what a typical day on the job is like. Other things an individual conducting an informational interview may want to learn include a typical career path in that specific field, challenges in the profession, and upcoming trends in the profession.
Upon concluding the interview, it would be appropriate to ask the interviewee if he knows of any other contacts in the profession to speak to. After the interview, it is common courtesy to send a thank you note, either handwritten or sent via e-mail. Staying in contact after the interview helps to build professional relationships.