Do you know what an informational interview is? If not, it’s time you learned and started doing it. Informational interviews are one of the easiest ways to build relationships and learn more about your career field.
An informational interview is setting up a one-on-one chat to learn more about a person’s career or company. It is not a date and it is not a formal job interview. It is a way to learn more about how someone got their job, what they like and don’t like about the position, and any advice they may have for you. If you’re interested in applying for a job at a company this is the first step in learning more about the company and understanding the culture there.
Before calling or emailing the person you should do your basic research about the company, industry, and person’s background. These are busy people and you don’t want to waste your time asking about information you can find online. Use this as a great opportunity to learn about things you won’t find online and issues that are important to you. For example, if you aren’t sure if you’d do better at a smaller company or a large corporation take time to ask about a company’s culture and work life balance. Also be sure to ask about mentorship opportunities for young women and learn more about the career paths of women in leadership.
Here are some sample questions you can ask on an informational interview:
What skills are required in your position on a daily basis?
What parts of your job do you find most challenging and most enjoyable?
What educational preparation would you recommend for someone looking to enter this field?
What newspapers, magazines, or blogs do you read to keep up-to-date with the industry?
How do you see your company and the industry changing in the next five years?
Are there other people in your field you believe I should reach out to? If so, would you mind making a connection?
While we would all like to be offered jobs on the spot, it is important to build relationships and learn as much as you can about an industry before jumping in. Use informational interviews as a way to gather information about various companies and industries, build relationships with key players, and figure out for yourself where you will do best. While not everyone will return your email or phone call, through hard work and dedication you can get a big reward: a great job with the right company.
Have you had success with an informational interview? Send us your stories. As always, send us your career and entrepreneurship questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.