How to tackle informational interviews

Similar to the art of networking that we had written about earlier, we are seeing that more and more people are doing informational interviews to figure out the next steps of the career journey.

So why do the informational interviews in the first place? Well, I often like to highlight these 3 key outcomes that come with this:

  • It’s a great way to learn about the inner workings of a company / industry through someone with firsthand experience
  • It’s a risk-free way to test out whether you will like the industry/company/role and be a good fit
  • And lastly, the conversation can potentially lead to an opportunity down the line if you make a great impression on the person

To get informational interviews, I highly recommend starting with people that you are most comfortable with first. That can be your friends, classmates, colleagues – people that you know well enough to send an email or phone call to ask if they can share their experiences. Send them a note saying that you are exploring different career options and that you believe speaking to them about their experience would be invaluable in your search. People would usually respond well to this and can often recommend additional people that can be helpful. After you secure the meetings, spend some time preparing!

Preparation should come in the form of research about the company/industry/role as well as doing lots of self-reflection on your own experience and future career goals. Even though your ultimate goal is to learn more from the person, be prepared to discuss your background and how it could be a potential fit for the company. It’s ok to be unsure of exactly what you want, but you still need to articulate what you think your transferable skills and interests are in order for this to be more of a two-way conversation.

Because information interviews aren’t meant to be long, be sure to also write out a few questions that you would want to ask so that you can make the most out of the meeting. Some of the key questions to ask could be:

  • What do you like the most about working for the company or the industry?
  • What is your career path and how did you get to where you are today?
  • What advice would you have for someone like me who’s trying to get into the company / industry?

I also recommend taking good notes so that you can refer back to it over time. With informational interviews, chances are that nothing immediate will come out of the meeting so it is even more important to keep good notes and build upon them over time.

Finally, the last thing I usually do is ask if there is anyone else they think you should talk to and if it is ok for you to follow up within another couple of months. This would keep the opportunity open for future discussions and potential opportunities down the line. Don’t forget to send a quick thank you email afterwards to show your appreciation for their time!