How to Have a Successful Information Interview

How to Prepare for an Informational Interview

  • Be respectful of the contact’s time and position yourself positively and professionally by being very well prepared
  • Research the company in advance – overview of products, services, target markets, competitors, financial performance, recent news, etc.
  • Research the person you will be meeting with – google them, check Linked In, the company web site
  • Think about what you can offer the contact – can you share networking contacts, professional association connections, information based on shared interests, etc.
  • Define your goals for the meeting clearly
  • Identify questions you plan to ask to support your goals

What to Ask in an informational interview

  • Customize the questions to each specific situation and have a reasonable number of questions to respect the contact’s time
  • Jobs/Roles
    • What responsibilities do you have in this role?
    • What is a typical day like?
    • What do you enjoy most about this work and why?
    • What do you find most challenging about this work and why?
    • What are the obstacles for someone entering this field?
    • What are the most critical skills, abilities and personal qualities for success in this field?
    • What is a typical career path to arrive in this position?  What was your path to this role?
    • Companies/Organizations/Work Environment
      • What you like and dislike about the company?
      • Why did you decide to join this company?
      • How are decisions made?
      • How would you describe the corporate culture?
      • How is the Marketing (or other) department structured?
      • How much work is done in teams?
      • What are the companies greatest challenges and how does your work address any of those challenges?
      • Industries
        • How could someone with my background enter this field?
        • What are the major current challenges in this industry?
        • What is current demand for jobs in this field?
        • What do you like most and least about working in this industry?
        • What first attracted you to this industry?
        • Contacts
          • Would you be willing to review my target list of companies and share feedback?
          • What other companies should I be considering given my background?
          • What types of organizations hire people to perform similar functions?
          • Do you know anyone I could speak to in this specific role that interests me?
          • Advice
            • What professional journals and associations do you recommend?
            • Given my experience and skills, what advice to you have to share about target industries, companies or role?
            • If you were in my situation, what options would you prioritize?
            • If you had it to do over again in your career, what changes would you make?
            • What advice to you have for a student interested in entering this field?
            • Giving Back
              • Show your appreciation and offer to assist the person in any way you can

Should you bring a resume to a networking meeting?

  • It would be better to bring a networking profile to share.  It highlights and summarizes your past experience but also includes what you hope to do and your target companies.  It makes it easier for a contact to identify opportunities to assist you.
  • If you bring a resume, keep in your portfolio until asked for it.
  • Never open the meeting with a resume.  It could ensure a very short meeting.

How to have a successful information interview

  • Arrive a few minutes early.  Be sure you know in advance how to get there and be prepared with a photo id in case it is needed at security.
  • Dress as the successful business professional you aspire to be.  Make a good first impression.
  • Bring business cards and a note pad so you can take notes.  This demonstrates that you are engaged and that you value the information and insights being shared.
  • Establish rapport with the individual and thank them for meeting with you.
  • Find common ground – the person who referred you, alumni connection, etc.
  • Clarify the purpose of the meeting, this assures them you are not asking for a job.  Instead focus on expanding your professional network, learning more about specific careers and companies.
  • Ask questions and take notes.
  • Answer their questions.  Don’t ramble.
  • Ask for advice and information.
  • Request referrals – who do they know that might benefit you.
  • Always thank them for their time and insights.
  • Keep them posted down the road.
  • Send a handwritten thank you note – it will help them remember you.
  • Demonstrate your enthusiasm – remember to smile.
  • Pay attention – you can pick up clues about the work environment and the culture.
  • Remember, one person’s opinion may not be representative of the whole company.  Talk to multiple people in the same organization if possible.

Do shy people really have to do this?

Cartoon Courtesy of CartoonStock.com

Cartoon Courtesy of CartoonStock.com

  • Yes, it is a critical part of the process and significantly increases your chances of landing a job you want.  People hire people so having connections in the company makes all the difference.
  • Try to do more listening than talking.  Ask open ended questions.  Get the contact talking about himself and his career.
  • It is about building mutually beneficial relationships – you are listening and asking questions, you are not selling yourself and asking for a job.  Reframing your thinking can help.
  • Be ready to give them a quick overview about you.
  • Take a few deep breaths.
  • Focus on it as a conversation with an interesting person.  It is NOT an interview for a specific job.
  • Start with connections – alumni, former colleagues, a friend’s parent or relative who works at the company.  It can be easier and more comfortable starting with warm connections and a common bond.
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2 thoughts on “How to Have a Successful Information Interview

  1. Pingback: Information Interviews | Get to Work

  2. Pingback: Informational Interviews | Get to Work

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