While researching job descriptions is a great avenue to learn more about a particular industry or position, conversations with individuals employed in your field of interest can be a powerful supplement to your job search.
What is an informational interview?
An informational interview is an informal conversation in which an individual leads a person currently employed in the role or field of interest through a series of structured questions about their job and career trajectory. Informational interviews can occur via phone, email, or in person.
How do you find people to interview?
You can find people to interview through a myriad of ways, such as asking friends to make introductions or utilizing LinkedIn.
Unless you have spoken to the person of interest face to face, or they are not well versed with email, a professional email requesting to learn more about their line of work or confirming a scheduled conversation is the recommended mode of outreach.
Folks have busy schedules, so don’t be disappointed if that person doesn’t immediately respond to your request. You can always try other contacts. If a person is receptive, keep the following in mind:
- 20-30 minutes at the most is the appropriate amount of time for an informational interview.
- Never ask him/her for a job. The purpose of an informational interview is to collect information and expand your network.
- Do some research beforehand. Google the person and the company that he/she works at.
- Prepare a list of things you’re interested in knowing about the person, their line of work, and their current position.
What kinds of questions should you ask?
The questions should be geared towards the person’s industry and position.
- What do you like most about what you do? Dislikes?
- How did you get to your position?
- How can one enter your line of work? (educational criteria, work experience)
- What are the typical types of jobs that exist in your industry?
- What’s a typical day like in your position?
- What advice do you have for someone interested in breaking into your field?
- What characteristics does an employer in your field look for when hiring?
While the interview is about the other person, it should still be a conversation that flows naturally. People naturally like to talk about themselves. They also like compliments! Make sure to be generous with compliments about the person in the conversation.
As always, send a follow-up email (within the same week as the informational interview) thanking him/her for taking the time out of their busy schedule to speak with you.
For additional information on informational interviewing, here are a couple of useful links for further reference. While some of these links are geared towards specific groups (college students, nonprofit professionals, etc.), they can still be applicable to you:
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About U Diverse’s founder:
Magali Toussaint is the founder of ‘U-Diverse’. She is a certified Talent Acquisition Strategist, an ICF-certified Leadership Consultant, a Career Coach, a Cross-Cultural Trainer, and a Job Search Strategist with an extensive career in Recruitment, HR, Diversity, as well as Education. She has lived and worked in over four countries and speaks French, English, and Dutch fluently. Read More...