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Tips to prepare for an informational interview

If you’re considering a career change or preparing for your first job out of school, informational interviews can be a powerful way to learn about different paths and make connections.

What is an informational interview?

An informational interview is a chance to learn more about the responsibilities and growth opportunities in a role, gain insight into an industry, and build your network. It can help you determine if the career is a good fit for you and how to best prepare for it.
However, keep in mind that the informational interview is not your big chance to ask for a job. If you tell someone you want to meet to learn more about their field or company, and then end by asking for a job, they might feel deceived by the sudden request. If the conversation leads to a job down the road, great. But don’t create a situation where the interviewee feels they were tricked.

Look for connections

Start by talking to your family, friends, and mentors about your goals. There is a good chance someone in your network can make an introduction to a person in your target career. You might be surprised to learn that your little brother’s soccer coach works for your dream company or your best friend’s neighbor works in the job you want to learn more about.
If your connections aren’t able to introduce you to someone in your target career, sites like LinkedIn can be a good place to make new connections. If you attended college, your alumni network can also be a valuable resource. While it can be daunting to reach out to people without a formal introduction, many people will still respond favorably if you show you’re genuinely interested in what they do.

Make the ask

Once you have identified someone you want to interview, reach out via phone or email. Be sure to mention how you got the person’s name. If you were put in contact by a mutual acquaintance, it’s a good chance to remind them of the connection.
Ask them if they have time to schedule a 20-30 minute conversation, and emphasize that you’re interested in learning more about their role. They will be more likely to respond favorably if they feel confident that you’re not going to ask them for a job.
Also, be prepared to seize the moment. If the person says they have a few minutes to chat, make sure your questions are prepared in advance so that you can get the most out of the conversation.

Prepare for the interview

While the informational interview is a chance to learn more about a career or field, you’ll get more out of the interview if you do your homework in advance. Research the role and learn about the person you’re about to meet. If you ask questions that could easily be answered by a google search, you’ve wasted the interviewee’s time and lost your opportunity to gain more valuable information. Instead, come prepared with open-ended questions like “What are some of the challenges in your role?” and “What are the skills you need to be successful in your job?” Asking the interviewee to reflect on their experiences will give you better insight into the role and can also help you to build a more lasting connection.

Conduct the interview

Be punctual! That holds true whether you’re meeting in person or chatting over the phone. The person you’re interviewing is giving you their time. Show that you appreciate their efforts by sticking with the schedule and showing up prepared.
Begin the meeting by sharing information about your academic and work background, as well as your objectives for the meeting. Use your questions to help guide the interview, but allow the conversation to flow naturally. Keep an eye on the time and acknowledge when you’ve reached the end of your scheduled meeting. If they offer to continue talking, feel free to ask more questions - just make sure you’ve given them an out and that they’re not fidgeting because they’re late for their next meeting.

Follow up

You’ve been given a gift of time and information. Show your appreciation by sending the person you interviewed a thank you note. (A handwritten note is a nice touch!)
If they offered to introduce you to another colleague or share information about a conference, this is also an opportunity to reiterate your interest in learning more. Just be sure to follow up if they make a new introduction!
Remember that every conversation is an opportunity. Whether the informational interview leads to a job or helps you realize that the career you had in mind isn’t a good fit for you after all, it can give you the tools to make informed decisions about your career path.

Want to join the conversation?

  • blobby green style avatar for user Samantha Lynne
    if you seem like you want to do something and you realize during the scheduled interview that it isn't the right fit for you do you continue the interview or should you ask to be excused?
    (12 votes)
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    • hopper cool style avatar for user Dhanush Varma
      Just ask whom you are interviewing, "Do you think I should get into it?". Assuming he/she knows about you might get a direct answer. If "no" well and good you can say thank you, end of discussion. If it is "yes"
      then you may discuss why you should or should not get into it, who knows maybe you would become a professional in that field.
      (6 votes)
  • mr pink red style avatar for user mbrightman18
    Does anyone have any good interview tips?
    (14 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user jcollins19
    What if you don't know every answer?
    (8 votes)
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    • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user Moe M
      You're not supposed to know the answers or the questions necessarily. You're giving them an idea of who you are professionally, but they're also telling you what it's like to work for the company and what your job would be. It's a 2-way street. Have ready answers to standard questions like, 'why do you want this job', 'what are your strengths/weaknesses', 'what do you hope to accomplish'...etc, but if they hit you with something you didn't prep for, take a moment and reflect on what would be true, positive and logical. Think of an interview like a first date if that's easier. You're scoping each other out to see if this is a good match. A single red flag isn't the worst thing in the world, but if you throw out multiple signals-or THEY do, then it's probably not a good fit and it's ok to move on.
      (16 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user Kingsleyedwin800
    hi this is kingsley please can someone who already started his social enterprise ask another social entrepreneur for informational interview?
    (5 votes)
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    • female robot grace style avatar for user julie
      yeah but in a sophisticated way that you will learn along as you ahead
      sometimes people may hesitate due to competition in the similar field or stream they are dealing with
      you can still risk asking the person if s/he are a relative or a good friend of your( even professionally)
      or if you are meeting them for the first time or put into contact by a mutual acquaintice you can keep asking questions about a certain topic by which the person may reveal unexpected valuable information gradually
      so..i know lot more..feel free to ask further and upvote
      p.s.-i am 13 so dont be hard on it
      (6 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user jacquie weaver
    Answer the following interview question in detail and best to your ability...Why should I hire you for this job?
    (5 votes)
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    • primosaur ultimate style avatar for user Justin Cramer
      Companies should only hire people if they meet the following three criteria: Fit, Skills, Affordability.

      To be hired you have to fit in their culture. This includes things like when you get in, his you communicate, and your general attitude. If a company is laid back and shows up 20 minutes to every meeting you may grow to dislike your coworkers. It would not be a good fit.

      Skills. If the company needs an accountant and you are a software engineer, you do not have the correct skills.

      Affordability, if you need/deserve a particular salary it may be too much for a given company can afford
      (4 votes)
  • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user azaryea welcome
    do you start by telling what your there for?
    (3 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user Zizi
    One tip that I learned was when presented with the question, "So, tell me a little bit about yourself." to start off with "Here are #(3) things you would need to know about me..." then start listing your chosen attributes.
    (5 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user 570915
    I am a very hard worker
    (5 votes)
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  • aqualine sapling style avatar for user Gremlin
    How do I figure out what I want to do? I feel like there are so many things I am drawn to. Sure, I can ask people and interview people, but that is just their perspective. I can't seem to narrow it down because nothing fits me like I want it to. How does anyone find their passion in life?
    (5 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user zoyak
    Ye but what about a video on how to interview people?
    (5 votes)
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