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An informational interview is an informal meeting with a professional who is working in your specific field of interest. These meetings serve as an opportunity to receive career advice and foster connections that will help you advance your career. While an informational interview is not the same as an actual job interview, there still may be an opportunity to pass along your résumé after the meeting.
Here are some tips on how you can prepare for and succeed at an informational interview:
Do Your Research
Depending on your career choice, you should have a good understanding of the company and job position you're interested in. Research the company and the individual contact’s professional and academic background. Doing so will create more topics of interest to discuss during the interview. Your thorough knowledge of the business won’t go unnoticed by the employer.
Career Fields, My Skills My Future, and O*Net Online are good resources to use to start researching different career paths.
Make a List of Contacts
According to Forbes, you should target specific professionals within the companies you're interested in. There are several ways to go about finding contact information, whether it’s Google, LinkedIn or the company’s website. If you're unable to locate contact information, then trying calling the office’s main line and ask somebody to point you in the right direction.
It’s also important to connect with your own personal contacts as they can potentially put you in touch with other professionals in your field. LinkedIn is a great tool because it lets you see how you're connected to employees at different companies.
Arrange an Appointment
Contact the professional by phone or email. Ask if you can arrange a 15 to 30 minute sit-down conversation with him or her. Again, this is not a job interview, so come prepared with a list of questions, and be respectful of their time.
Don’t be discouraged, however, if they aren’t available to meet with you right away (or at all). They may have a lot to balance in their work schedule, so try to be flexible with your scheduling.
Interview Questions to Ask
Examples of questions to ask include:
- How did you start working for this company?
- What is a typical day like in your position?
- What qualifications/experience are needed for a certain position?
- What do you like most about working at this company?
Say Thank You
ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS send a thank you note or email after the informational interview expressing your gratitude for that person’s time. This should be sent within 24 hours of the interview.
Keep your note short and sweet, perhaps mentioning a topic of interest that you discussed to really show your interest. Invite them to connect with you on LinkedIn if you haven’t done so already.
While informational interviews may seem like a lot of work (especially considering they are not real job interviews), they'll pay off in the end. So, keep in touch with the professional in your field with occasional emails. They'll remember your dedication, and when a new position opens, word will spread that you're looking. As job opportunities become available, employers may contact you for a real job interview.