If you have ever searched for an internship or job, you have likely heard about the importance of research and networking. One way to accomplish both tasks simultaneously is through an informational interview.
What is an Informational Interview?
An informational interview is an opportunity to build a connection, demonstrate your passion and value for a particular career field, and gather intelligence that might help secure a job. An informational interview is not a job interview; rather, it is a great way to meet individuals who can help you gain knowledge about the broad industry and specific company. Meeting with individuals who know what it is like to work in an industry and can share advice about their own path may help you in your internship and job search in the short- and long-term.
Finding People to Interview
Start with family, friends, and friends of your family. Then, consider others with whom you regularly interact, such as professors, classmates, and members of clubs or volunteer groups. You will be surprised by how many connections you can generate from people you already know! Professional associations related to your industry are another valuable way to meet people and become familiar with the issues involved in that profession. If an association matching your interests does not exist, start one with a classmate. When you attend networking functions, branch out rather than stick with other students; in so doing, you are more likely to find someone who could benefit your career!
Investigate the different settings in which people work in the careers that interest you. For example, if you are considering a career in marketing, look beyond traditional consumer goods companies to consider any organization that offers marketing functions. Chances are that educational, healthcare, and financial firms also have a need for functions including sales management, market research, and advertising, just to name a few. Talking to people in more than one organization is important, as jobs can differ greatly depending on the work environment of individual employers. Additionally, try to interview individuals who hold these positions and their supervisors or department heads. Keep in mind that it is often easier to start with the boss and then be “sent down” to the level at which you might start.
If you have exhausted all of your personal resources or cannot find a contact in an organization that you want to get into via LinkedIn, call the company’s general phone number. Ask who is in charge of the division or department that performs the type of work that you are researching. Note that person’s name, job title, and contact information so that you can reach out directly.
Setting up the Interview
When introducing yourself to a contact, include your name, current status (e.g. student at the Carey Business School), and a specific request for their help, such as 20 minutes to obtain their advice on career options and learn more about their career path and current occupation. Do not ask for a job! Note that not everyone you contact will have the time or desire to speak with you. As with all components of a job search, the more people that you call, the better chance you have of setting up an informational interview.
Preparing for the Interview
Scheduling an informational interview is just the first piece of the puzzle – follow these five tips to make a favorable impression during the meeting!
1. Research the company and individual ahead of time and come prepared with specific questions. Questions may address the company’s vision and culture, and the individual’s background and lessons learned.
2. Bring an updated copy of your resume and be prepared to highlight the experiences and skills most relevant to the individual’s company.
3. Dress in business attire and maintain professional grooming.
4. Take the initiative throughout the interview. You called the meeting, so the interviewee expects you to lead the conversation, at least at the start. The interviewee may also ask questions about your background and career interests.
At the end of an informational interview, ask the interviewee if there is anyone else they recommend that you speak with to obtain further information. Thank them for their time and express interest in staying in touch.
Following up after the Interview
As with any type of interview, send a thank you email within two days of the meeting. Express gratitude for the person’s time, insight, and any next steps that they offered, such as referring you to a colleague. Beyond the initial thank you note, stay in regular contact! Even if that individual is not currently in a position to hire or refer you, they may be in the future. Keep them aware of professional updates such as new internships or certifications, and wish them well – holidays are a great time to do so! Networking is an ongoing, reciprocal relationship, not an end in itself to be abandoned once you get the information, referral, or job that you seek. Every informational interview helps you hone your interview skills and learn about your intended career, so that when a real job interview comes up, you’ll be prepared to ace it!
Call to Action: Who will you reach out to this week?
For additional advice related to informational interviews, including appropriate correspondence, attire, and questions to ask, please check out the Carey Career Navigator and/or make an appointment with a Career Coach!