The Secrets of Informational Interviews
Have you ever heard of an informational interview?
Here’s where you can drop the nervousness and the tension, because informational interviews are totally pressure-free.
Informational interviews are informal meetings with a company representative to discuss company culture, their values and what it’s like to work there. It’s a sneak peek at the company without putting yourself in the mix (or at least, right away). They can happen in an office, lobby or on a walking tour.
And since you are not applying for a job, you won’t be putting pressure on them either, and you can get to know one another in a relaxed way.
This is more than just a field trip.
Don’t waste time, have a purpose. What do you need to know? An informational interview can actually further you in your career.
- You’ll meet amazing people and be able to ask how they got their start
- You’ll see what a day in the office looks like for someone in your position
- You can test the waters a bit and get a feel for what you may see yourself doing
- You can discover what matters to the company
- Plus, you might make a personal connection with someone on the inside for later networking and communication
How do I set up an informational interview?
Informational interviews are not advertised. It’s all about reaching out to people and putting yourself out there.
My story…One informational interview was with a beautiful ad agency right on the water in Sausalito. I met with head writers, toured the office, and saw some creative ideas being bounced around in the conference room. It showed me what the company’s potential was, but it also gave the hiring manager a positive look of me because…I took initiative. And, I got a job there.
For an intern level position, chances are people are more willing to agree to meet with you for an informational interview – especially if they want to meet new talent and help you out in your career (because someone helped them out too when they started out…)
So I got the interview, yes! Now what?
Now you need to go in prepared. Here are some pointers:
Get the conversation started
People love to talk about themselves, and it will make them feel connected with you. Some questions to start the conversation:
- How did you get here? What was the path that bought you here? (This a great one, you will hear some incredible personal stories)
- What’s it like working for (a person, a position or the company itself)?
- What projects are you working on right now?
- Was there any special training you had or received once you got here?
- What do you love most about your job?
- Why did you choose this company over others?
Forget asking about how many vacation days they get.
2. Show your interest by doing your homework
Before you get there, bone up on the company. Read their blog, press releases and any other news about them or projects they just completed. Look up the management team and learn something personal about them, like a charity they support. Ask questions on your interview. This shows major interest on your part.
3. Once you’re there…Ask open-ended, thoughtful questions:
- I’m really interested in this career path. Just curious:
- How did you choose this position over others?
- What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
- The most challenging?
- What advice would you give to someone starting out?
- What books would you recommend?
- What do you think about (Name something newsworthy happening in the industry and ask how it affects theirs)
4. Keep the momentum going
Before you wrap up, kindly ask to stay in touch with that person, asking if you can have his or her business card. And of course, thank them profusely for taking their time to meet with you and send a thank you note or small gift. (If they mentioned their dog, send a card or mini book with a dog on it.)
Ask if there’s anyone else they think would be good to speak to about…(name something specific, like “how I can leverage my background in library science in the technology field”)
If you are aggressively seeking internship opportunities and the meeting went well, it’s OK to ask if they have internship programs, or if an opportunity opens up would they let you know.
You just never know – ask away!