When conducting research on an industry using resources that are widely available to the general public, it can be difficult to gain more than a basic sense of what a profession entails or what a company actually achieves. However, an informational interview can lend an insider’s perspective, telling more about a company’s culture, day-to-day work, key priorities, and important issues within that field.
By connecting with individuals through informational interviews, not only can you learn from a unique and personal perspective but also you can build professional relationships and grow your network.
Since informational interviews require individuals to lend their valuable and often limited time, here are a few tips for conducting the most effective and respectful interviews.
- Do not ask for a job.
An informational interview is not the right time or place to ask for a job. It is a learning opportunity, not a chance to solicit a position. In fact, if you are looking for a job under the pretence of an informational interview, it could damage your relationship with your contact and hinder your chances of pursuing a career at that company.It is true that building relationships through informational interviews could lead to opportunities in the future, but it is not the point of the interview itself.
- Be very conscious about time.
When requesting an informational interview, do not ask for more than 30 minutes of an individual’s time. During an interview, take responsibility for regulating time and ensure that you do not go over the allotted schedule. Additionally, like a regular job interview, punctuality is essential – respecting the time of your contact and making a great first impression are still both important here.
- Prepare in advance with questions and research.
Do not arrive unprepared by simply expecting the interviewee to tell you exactly what you want to hear. You should have structured questions prepared in advance so that you can focus on exactly what interests you, and also so that you can maximize the limited time you have.Additionally, make sure you research the company and the interviewee’s position. It is important to demonstrate your interest and investment in the field, so that an interviewee feels it is worth his or her time to meet with you.
- Write a thank-you note.
After an informational interview, show your gratitude to your contact in a formal manner. Whether via email or a handwritten note, saying “thank you” will help to ensure that you maintain a positive relationship with the interviewee in the future.