An informational interview is a totally different breed than an employment interview. How? Well, when asking for an informational interview you are doing so from a place of research. Conducting an informational interview isn’t about getting a job; it is about gathering information.
Informational interviews provide valuable information about potential industries, companies and their culture, the type of work they do, potential positions where your skill set might fit and the education and qualifications that various positions require. It is your opportunity to ask the questions!
Conducting informational interviews is a great way to transition into another career. When I decided I wanted to make a change from employment counseling to learning and development I did all kinds of informational interviews. How was this helpful? I learned what qualifications companies were looking for, how they did their hiring and what the company structure was like, among other things.
Even more useful, I was able to meet face-to-face with people in my desired field. Making these connections and adding to my network was incredibly valuable and I also got a feel for the company environment. By conducting in-person informational interviews at the company location, I had the opportunity to see employees at work. By going in, I was able to check out their faces and the environment and see if people are generally happy at their jobs, bored out of their minds or couldn’t wait until the end of the day. This is insight that can’t be found on a company website, from a job boards or job websites.
Why would someone be open to doing an info interview with you? Check out this article for more on why most people will give you their time and how to get started.
One of the keys to obtaining an informational interview is to contact someone who does the type of work you might want to do. Having their name so you can address them directly will help. LinkedIn is also a great way to get an introduction and so is cold calling. Use your personal network as well to get to the contacts you need.
The script should contain:
Here’s an example of a cold calling script my client Debbie* used. “Hi, my name is Debbie Clover. I am a recent graduate from UBC and am doing some research into where my skills and qualifications might fit. Would you have 15 minutes to meet with me and discuss your company and role? When might be better this week or next”
Each time Debbie used this script she was granted an informational interview.
Persistence pays off and so does timing. If you meet with resistance when asking for an informational interview ask if you can call again at a better time. Then ensure you record the time and date to follow up and do so!
Meeting in person is preferred, but in the event your contact cannot do this, be ready to conduct the interview over the phone.
Develop a list of questions to ask at the interview. One of the best questions to ask at the end of the interview is, “Can you recommend someone else I might talk to.” And when they do, “Can I use your name when I contact them.” This expands your network and provides another person to do an informational interview with. Plus you now have a warm call to make that will open the doors to more informational interviews!
Although this isn’t an employment interview you want to treat it as an interview and take the meeting seriously. Here’s a checklist to follow:
Part of making a great impression is by doing a follow-up. Send a written thank you card after the interview and then check in on a regular basis with your new contact. That way if an opening becomes available down the road you will be one of the first people they will contact.
*Names have been changed to protect client confidentiality
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Mary works with overwhelmed professional women who are stuck in their career, by helping them rise above the competition, get the job they truly want and the money they deserve - faster and with less hassle. She specializes in working with mom’s, (she’s a mom too!) - helping them gain balance, clarity and success, taking back their lives as she did with hers. With over 10 years of coaching, Mary has helped more than 1,200 people overcome the isolation, frustration and discouragement job search can bring. Contact Mary on Noomii or her website to find out how she can help you find the job of your dreams.