Information Interviews: What Are They?
If you’re new to your field, you probably realized pretty quickly just how intimidating the workforce is.
Not only can it be difficult to find a job, but learning how to survive in your industry can be a very daunting task.
This is one of the many reasons why having an informational interview is so important.
What is an Informational Interview?
An informational interview is a meeting with an industry professional to learn more about their industry. The purpose is not to find a job or ask for a job, but to instead listen and learn.
Wait, so you DON’T walk out of this interview with a job? Well then what’s the point?
Relax; the information you will get from this interview can set the course for the rest of your career. However, this won’t be the case if you don’t have an effective informational interview. Also, you need to know what things you CAN get from this interview.
Pick the Right Pro
If you’re looking to do an informational interview, make sure that you pick and choose the right person. Look through your own LinkedIn connections along with the connections of some of your close friends and family members. Look for people in your industry who have a job in your industry that you would love to have.
Make sure that you gauge your educational background against theirs. If you meet with someone who did their undergrad at Harvard and was able to find work within days of graduating, you can’t expect to use all of the same job-hunting techniques that they used.
By all means, if you have a chance to talk with someone with a rich educational background along with your dream job, speak with them as they have a lot that they can teach you.
Schedule an Interview Politely
When scheduling an interview, be as polite as possible. Don’t just go:
This is Jake. Call me tomorrow at noon.
Show a bit more class.
If the professional is one of your friend’s or family member’s connections, ask them if they can make an introduction with the professional. If they are one of your own, you can reach out directly, but be prepared to be redirected to an assistant or secretary.
Start off by introducing yourself. If you’re a recent grad, let them know your alma mater. If you are recently unemployed, tell them your most recent job. Tell them that you are looking to speak with a professional in your industry, and that they stood out to you. Rather than getting into the things you want to talk about in the interview, ask if you can schedule a meeting in your opening email/direct message.
The reason why you don’t want to start immediately asking questions is because they will either:
- Think you’re rude and not respond at all.
- Give you shoddy answers and not give you an opportunity to follow up.
If the person works close to where you live, ask if you can meet for coffee. If they work far from where you live, ask if you can talk with them via Zoom, Skype or over the phone. If you do go out for coffee, make sure that you don’t order a sandwich along with it that you wolf down while talking with them. Wait until the interview is over.
Prepare For the Interview
Go into this interview as if it were a job interview. This means you should dress professionally and behave as if this person were offering you a job.
You should also bring with a notebook and pens so that you can take notes. If you have any business cards, give one to the professional. You’ll never know when they need to find YOU in their rolodex.
Finally, you need to decide what you want to get out of this interview. If you need to know something specific about your industry, work on those questions. If you want an insight of what is going on in your industry and what the future holds, jot down those questions. Maybe you want to know how to find a job in your industry, and where you should start looking.
Whatever the case may be, figure it out, write the questions down and get ready.
A common mistake that many people make in interviews is that they think about what they are going to say next rather than LISTEN to what the interviewee is saying.
Listen to every word that comes out of their mouth, and think about what they are saying. You can ask them to repeat something they said, and ask for clarification on something that you did not understand. Remember to take notes.
When you ask a question, ask a follow-up based on their answers. Not only will you get better information, but you’ll also impress them.
Tell Them About YOU
Yes, the purpose of the interview is to learn from them, but they can teach you better if they know about you.
Tell them about your educational background, internships related to your field and relevant job experiences. Tell them what you enjoy most about the industry, and what you have found challenging. Tell them the things that concern you about the industry along with what excites you.
They can give you better feedback and better advice once they have an idea of who you are.
Ask Them to Help You Plan Your Next Move
Toward the end of the interview, tell them about where you’d like to see yourself in the foreseeable future, and ask them how they think you can get there.
They can tell you where you should start looking for a job, what experience you still need and even what things you should highlight on your resume. Even though you didn’t go into this interview looking for a job, this person could very well know of someone who is hiring or may be hiring themselves!
End the Interview Correctly
At the end of the interview, thank them for their time. If you have a business card, hand one over to them. Ask them for one of their cards as well. Also, ask them if they would be willing to be listed as a reference for you or if they would be willing to write you a letter of recommendation.
Even though you only spoke with this person for a short time, they now know a lot about who you are and what you are looking for out of the industry.
Within 24 hours of the interview, send them a message saying “thank you.”
Keep in Contact
Sure, you may not be ready to tour wine country with the industry pro, but that does not mean that your professional relationship is over. Keep in contact with them over LinkedIn so that they can watch your growth in the industry. You can also have coffee with them again in the future if you have other questions, or if you’d like to give them some updates on what is happening with you.
Down the line, this person may want to hire someone of your caliber, and that might as well be you!