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The Informational Interview

Updated: Apr 21, 2021

Networking is nothing more than a fancy way of saying, “talk to people”. It involves making a list of contacts who may be able to give you advice and information on your career goals.

Two people talking to each other across from a table. One person is gesturing with their hands.

Despite the emphasis placed on it, networking remains a misunderstood concept. Basically, it is an efficient method of information exchange - an informational interview which is a brief meeting or phone call that usually lasts 20 to 30 minutes for the purpose of career exploration or job search.

Want to know what a career is really like?

Ask someone with first-hand experience.

Many people wonder anxiously about which kind of job they will like or what they can do within a particular field. Surprisingly, very few people ever take advantage of the best ways to answer questions about careers: ask the professionals who are already doing the job. It can be as simple as striking up conversations with friends and others about their occupations. But to take full advantage of this career exploration tool, requires time, commitment and being organized with a more methodical approach.

Benefits include:

  • Enables you to get advice and guidance & focus your career goals

  • To learn more about the realities of working in a particular environment

  • Allows you to gather marketplace information

  • Gain the perspective of how to break into a particular field

  • Uncovers the hidden job market (80% of the jobs); identify internships to gain related work experience

  • Generates referrals that further build your network; Locate possible mentors

  • Develops long term relationships with those who may help you later

How to Conduct an Informational Interview

An Informational Interview is more casual than a job interview but you should still be professional in your dress and behavior. Making a positive first impression shows you care about your career. As for all business meetings, arrive on time but no more than 15 minutes early.

In networking with others, you should always be prepared to present short “sound bite” or "elevator pitch ” about who you are and what kind of information you are seeking.

Open ended questions are the most useful to gather the information you need. It is appropriate to take notes of important facts and impressions.

  • Begin the conversation by thanking the individual for his or her time.

  • Summarize your background.

  • Highlight any previous related work experience.

  • Articulate your agenda (the purpose of the meeting- exploring a specific career or conducting a job search)

  • Describe the information you are interested in knowing, or types of positions you are looking for, along with specific target organizations or companies.

  • Ask questions and monitor the time.

  • Ask for referrals or introductions to other professionals in the field, and/or at organizations on your target list of companies.

  • Thank the contact for taking the time to speak with you.

  • Indicate your interest in maintaining a networking relationship. Ask for their permission to follow up with them in specified amount of time.

  • Write a thank you note.

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