An informational interview is a meeting that you initiate for the purpose of gaining additional knowledge from a person with hands-on experience. In contrast to a job interview, you are the interviewer – the ball is in your court as to the content and flow. You need to come prepared with questions you need answered. Never, never ask for a job when you have booked an appointment for an informational interview. There is no quicker way to alienate a networking contact and the person who gave you the referral than to have a “hidden agenda.” Always follow-up the interview with a thank you note in which you reiterate anything you found particularly interesting or helpful. Also keep a record of names, dates, comments and referrals. Specific reasons for conducting informational interviews include:
• Getting first hand industry, company, career path information from an expert
• Checking out your assumptions about a specific career path e.g., job satisfiers, dissatisfies, demands, rewards
• Soliciting specific information about business trends, issues, developments, etc.
• Confirming information about the company culture, values, and organizational “climate”
• Assessing your aspirations, skills, strategy, resume, etc.
Differences Between Informational and Job Interviews
Control: The balance is in your favor. You know what information you want and what the questions are.
Purpose: They’re not interviewing you for a job (not now at least), but you are making that critical first impression which could lead to other recommendations (one of your questions should be to ask for these), or perhaps a position with the company (only if they initiate the subject).
Pressure: There is every reason for both of you to be relaxed. This is an opportunity to investigate just what you want. The spotlight is on your contact’s expertise and your interest in that expertise.