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Informational Interviews: A Powerful Job Search Tool

informational interview at workplace


Informational Interviews: A Powerful Job Search Tool in 2022

Let’s talk about informational interviews. Don’t feel like reading? Listen here!

In recent years, many people have benefitted from informational interviews. Such discussions can increase their connections with people who can provide information and potentially directly influence their career success. 


An informational interview infuses purpose into networking. It creates a personal resource and helps job seekers or career changers land a career, job, or company. Lee Hecht Harrison, a well-known career management company, reports that one of 25 informational interviews leads to a job offer. 


We know networking is critical for job seekers. It helps get referrals for jobs and insider intel about a company. Through networking, you create deep connections. And the right people can provide first-hand experiences about how to succeed.


Informational Interviews Are For Everyone

Job seekers in any career stage can use this strategy as part of their overall job search. College students should take advantage of their career services center. They can connect with alumni in their industry and start having these conversations. By asking the right questions, they can make informed decisions to either change majors or ramp up their interests and activities in their current major. 

job seekers

A seasoned professional changing careers can also make use of the informational interview. Whether making a job change or an industry change, they will benefit from knowing whether there is a culture fit with a company they are interested in. 


For both the new student and the experienced professional, the informational interview may lead to introductions to key people. By talking to enough people, they can navigate the unknown in their target industry and get referrals


What Are Informational Interviews?


Informational interviews — also called informational meetings — are business conversations with a 180-degree approach to the traditional job interview. The job seeker, who aspires to advance their career or make a career change, becomes the interviewer and talks to industry professionals about their experiences in an industry, a job, or a company. The goal is to gather information to become more informed, succeed, and meet people who can help them move forward.

In an informational interview, you’re not asking for a job or an interview. The purpose is to gather more information about the industry, tools, and strategies needed to succeed. The more informational interviews (or business conversations) you have, the more knowledge you will gather about an industry. 

Someone learning a new skill might be interested in how many ways they could use it and learn about the additional training they need. In an informational interview, they should center questions around:


  • Additional resources 
  • Other people they should know
  • Career options for using their newly learned skills 


If the conversation takes place during a training program, they can find out how people are working and the expectations within the industry. 


What Informational Interviews Are Not


The goal is to get insider information not found online or in a book but from a person’s real-life experiences during their career. It’s possible to land a conversation with someone who has direct hiring influence or makes the hiring decisions. Remember, the meeting is not a job opportunity or time to ask for a job. 


Sometimes people will get referrals from the person they interview, but rarely a job offer, even if they’re qualified. The interviewee will notice the quality of the questions and might offer to mentor them or refer them for a job. 

You’re asking for 10-15 minutes of someone’s time to provide insight into your questions. If they ask for additional time to talk or for another conversation, you can be confident they are now interested in helping you. The person’s insight often extends to their perception of you. Informational interviews are a chance to show your interest in the industry or job.

job professionals

You’re not trying to impress by how much you know, but by what you want to learn. With the right questions, you may impress your interviewee, and they may then initiate a deeper relationship with you. There are places on the web to help you with what to ask, but you’ll want to tailor your questions to the primary information you need.


What You’re Missing By Not Doing Informational Interviews


Informational interviews are a great opportunity to create a deeper understanding of a profession from an industry veteran. The learning and new relationship are worth investing 15 minutes of your time to help you advance your career. Googling the subject will provide some information about an industry. You may even be able to join the industry’s professional organization or association. But, there’s something more personable about having an intimate 15-minute person-to-person.


People love talking about themselves and appreciate being a resource for others. The exchange usually results in you becoming a part of their network. It’s likely their connections include company owners or helpful people like themselves. Many people you interview may not be responsive beyond the conversation. However, the few generous interviewees are worth the time. A productive discussion may compel you to change career directions or prompt you to investigate or change what’s not working.


Who To Ask and NOT To Ask?


Informational interviews occur more through the Internet than in-person conversations. To land an informational interview, frame your query by asking if you can have just 15 minutes of someone’s time to ask some questions about their career.

The more transparent you are in why you’re asking them, the better rapport you’ll create before the conversation. Attitude counts! Your enthusiasm will be infectious and increase the value of the conversation. Once they share your enthusiasm and desire, you can anticipate great results. Since you can conduct an informational interview online through a video call, there are no boundaries to whom you can ask.

professional in interview

While physical proximity limits in-person conversations, the internet gives you access to people worldwide. When approaching an industry expert, it’s best to ask them how they wish to participate, whether it’s a phone call, video call, in-person, or email. You must be sensitive to those exhausted from participating in virtual conversations, so meeting them on their terms is best. People who are less enthusiastic about answering your questions — don’t include them.


Some Tips To Get the Conversation Started


Mindset is also key while interviewing to remain in control of getting your desired results. Understand that every conversation has value, but it must serve your goals. While your questions and the tone of the discussion should be more investigative than reflective, be sure to ask both types of questions.


Examples of Questions to Ask


Reflective: How did you get interested in this industry? How did you land the first job that led you to what you do today?


Investigative: What are the essential skills to thrive in this industry? What skills do you use the most?


Reflective: Why did you choose to work for XXX company? How do you feel you contribute to the industry/team/company essential to its success?


Investigative: What companies are the best to work for in your industry? What attributes should a company consider in my current job search?


Reflective: Who was instrumental in shaping your view of this industry?


Investigative: Who else would you recommend ‌talking to about this work?


After the Interview


Be sure to thank your interviewee. A follow-up call or an email thanking them for their time is essential. Let your person know they added value and the advice you’ve taken to heart. There’s always a possibility the informational interview may lead to further engagement. They may ask for another conversation, refer you to speak with someone else, or inform you about an open position.


Your Approach Is Everything


Several sites on the internet provide questions you could ask during an informational interview. These questions are good conversation starters or examples of other questions you can ask. 

The best approach is to ask specific questions on topics you’re curious about. Your goal is to get the most information you can in 10 to 15 minutes. 

Do some research on the interviewee before you meet. Their LinkedIn profile should have enough information for you to start the conversation. Or, if you want more information, you can Google a person using quotes (i.e., “Mark Anthony Dyson”) so you will get person-specific results. Your technique is critical to getting a “yes.” If you ask a person out of the blue if you can “do an informational interview” with them, it can make things awkward. But, if you have some interactions with them over a few months before asking for 10 to 15 minutes of their time, you increase your chances of them agreeing. 


Your interactions online or in person might be slightly investigative in tone. Still, if you have a good rapport, they will be flattered that you asked. When you pose the question, ask for a conversation and be forthright about why. Also, you’ll want to ask them their preferred way to talk, either via a video call, phone, email, in-person, or some other method. Informational interviews increased when everyone began working and socializing virtually in the last two years. Your preparation will communicate how much you value their input and time. You’ll also reap the benefits of getting constructive direction. Your interviewee may suggest a specific action and ask you to follow up because they’re interested in the results you achieve. Remember, the relationship with the interviewee is the most valuable takeaway.


Read more: Get the Best Applicant Tracking Systems in 2022

Team Lensa
Team Lensa
Team Lensa is a group of HR specialists, career counselors, and tech enthusiasts dedicated to helping job seekers navigate the employment landscape through actionable tips and insights.

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