Company structures, job titles, and job postings often vary greatly. A specific career field or position at one company may have one definition, while the same field or position at another means entirely different. Using informational interviews as a tool to obtain accurate information about a company, career field, or specific position can be highly effective.
What is an Informational Interview?
U.C. Berkeley defines an informational interview as, “an informal conversation you can have with someone working in an area of interest to you.” Essentially, it’s just a simple conversation with someone either working for a company you aspire to work for, or with someone who holds a position that aligns with your career goals.
Informational interviews can be great for finding out things like:
- What it’s like to work for a specific company
- Industry or company information, such as current challenges and future outlook
- Insider knowledge about a particular career field or job title
- What steps you might need to take to make your dreams of working for this company, or to obtain a specific role, a reality
Using informational interviews not only gets you recognized within your network, but it helps build relationships with key contacts.
How to Get One
Getting an informational interview is easier than you think. But it requires that you reach out to strangers and initiate conversations. Target hiring managers, HR reps, or talent acquisition specialists at specific companies to learn more about who and how they hire. To learn about the job and industry, select people that hold similar titles and roles to what you are looking for.
When you contact the person you’re hoping to speak with, make sure you emphasize that you are looking for information and not a job. Even if you ARE a job seeker, that’s not the point of this conversation.
Introduce yourself, let the person know how you found them, and request 10-15 minutes of their time to ask questions. Again, do NOT ask for a job in an informational interview. Discuss the company, industry trends, and have a set list of questions prepared to find the information you are seeking.
…And How to Follow Up
Once you’ve had an informational interview, it’s important to follow-up with the contact and thank them for their time. If any particular business challenges were discussed, maybe think of a solution or two to send with your note. Stay in touch, whether it be through email messages or simple engagements on their LinkedIn posts. If ever a desired position opens up at the company, it is 100% okay to reach out and include your resume in hopes of landing the next type of interview: a job interview.
For more information on Informational Interviewing, listen to our podcast