I had no idea what an informational interview was as an undergrad student. I would have told you, “Employers interview me. I don’t interview them.” That’s just the way it is, right?
Get this: you can set up your own interviews. (I know. I just blew your mind.)
Asking a respected leader in your field about his or her position and career path can give you the direction you need in your own.
What is an Informational Interview?
If you’re like me after college graduation, you have a lot of aspirations—but you also have a lot of questions. You know where you want to end up in your career, but you don’t have a clue on how to get there.
An informational interview is your chance to ask someone, who has a clue, how they became successful. Hearing about his or her career path will provide you with insight, so you can become successful too. It’s an opportunity to learn how someone else has made their aspirations into a reality.
In short, an informational interview is an interview you set up with a person in your desired field to gain knowledge and help steer you in your career path.
The Benefits of an Informational Interview
It’s never too soon to set-up an informational interview. If you’re a student, many are willing to offer you advice.
It’s never too late either. If you’ve graduated or have been in the working world for a while, recognizing someone as a leader in his or her field is a compliment. Your recognition of her or his success will most likely make her or him willing to give you advice as well.
No matter what stage you’re in on your career, an informational interview can speed up your job search and provide a foundation for your career path.
Here’s are the benefits of conducting your own informational interview:
- Learn about various positions in your field.
- Discover which jobs you are qualified for.
- Hear how a role model in your field obtained his or her (and your!) dream job.
- Hear how he or she overcame obstacles that you will have to overcome on your career path.
- Learn what he or she likes the most and least about his or her position to determine whether or not you and your dream job are a good match.
- Grow your network.
How to Set It Up
As an identified INFP from the Myers Briggs Personality Test, I understand that setting up an interview with a stranger might be the scariest thing that you’ve ever done. I get it, I really do.
But guess what?
You need to do it anyway. Your future self will thank you for it. So look in the mirror and tell yourself, in the words of The Help, “You is smart. You is kind. You is important.” Then pick up your phone.
Here are the complete steps to set up your own informational interview:
- Cold-call (or, if you must, email) a person in your field, who has a position related to your desired career path.
- Ask for the best time you can meet with him or her, whether it’s at the office, out for coffee, over the phone, or on Skype.
- Do your research. Look into her or his position and company website.
- Prepare your questions. (See below.)
- Bring your resume!
- Be on time, shake his or her hand, and be confident!
The Questions You Should Ask
Before you read what you should ask, it’s also important to mention the question that you should NOT ask. Whatever you do, do not ask for a job. That will make you appear untrustworthy, as well as end your mentoring-geared discussion. Only ask for advice:
- After looking at my resume, what positions in this field am I qualified for?
- How did you break into the industry?
- What do you think the future of your company looks like?
- What are the current projects you’re working on?
- Can you give me two other people that I can talk to, like I’ve talked to you today?
Don’t forget send a thank-you note and continue to follow up with your new connection, because who knows? The next time a position comes open in his or her company, you might be the one asked for an interview.
Morgan Vega Gomez, Recruiting Assistant, Career & Academic Planning