How to get the most out of an informational interview
Informational interviews are an excellent job searching tool that is many times forgotten about or underrated. An informational interview is a great tool to use when you have your heart set on a company and they either do not have any openings or if you haven’t been called in for an interview yet. The informational interview shows the company that you are genuinely interested in the company and no just any job. Another time when an informational interview can be valuable is when you are trying to learn more about an industry or company to make a more educated choice on whether it is a good fit for you or not. By meeting with someone from the industry, without the pressure of a job interview, there will be a more honest dialogue about the industry.
Do your homework
Before you step into the interview, you want to make sure that you have done your research on the industry, the company, and similar companies. Doing research ahead of time is going to be noticeable to the person you’re speaking with and it will show in the quality of your questions.
Come prepared with questions
Prepare your questions before the day of your interview. It’s also a good idea to write down the questions in your notebook that you’ll be bringing into the interview in case you forget them. If possible, practice asking your question to a friend or to your roommate. This will ensure that your questions are clear and concise.
Come with a purpose
Before you set up your informational interview, it is important you are clear on the purpose for setting up the interview. Be clear on why you want to meet with someone from that specific company as well as why that person would be the pest to reach out to regarding an informational interview. Prior to the interview, you want to be just as clear on what you want to get out of the interview. Is your purpose to learn more about the industry to see if it’s the right fit for you? Is your purpose to learn more about a specific type of role?
Be clear on the time frame (20-30 minutes)
An informational interview should not be any longer than 30 minutes. You’re meeting with someone who has already gone out of their way to take time from their work day to meet with you and so it’s very important that you respect their time. When you are clear that this is the time frame that you’re going to be working with, you’ll know how to manage the time when it comes to your questions and follow up questions that are unplanned.
Don’t ask for a job
It is crucial that you distinguish an informational interview from a formal job interview. The reason why informational interviews work is because the person you’re meeting with appreciates your genuine interest in the company. They appreciate that you’re willing to learn more about it regardless of there being a job on the line.
Send a thank you note
Just because it’s not a formal job interview, it doesn’t mean that you can skip the thank you note. The proper etiquette is to send a quick thank you note via email the day of your interview and that same day mail out a handwritten thank you note so that it gets to their mailbox as soon as possible.