What in the World is an Informational Interview?

This series is dedicated to explaining the parts of an informational interview, an important step in dominating the job hunt.

In college, you may have a vague deadline of when to have an internship. The summer of junior year might sound right. After graduation, the deadline is just as vague, but more immediate. You cross your fingers (and your toes) and hope for the day after graduation.

FindSpark Informational InterviewPhoto courtesy of Siyaka Taylor-Lewis

On top of the deadlines, there are still more questions. What is the company culture like and will you fit in? Do I even like this industry? Did they even look at my resume?

These are excellent questions and ones you want the answers to before you commit to a job. Research on the internet will only take you so far, though. Eventually, you are going to want to know things from a personal point of view. This is the time for an informational interview.

What is an informational interview?

When I reached out to my network for stories on informational interviews, I was met with silence and confusion.

“So it’s not for a job? What’s the point?”

“You mean like….a job interview?”

“…What’s an informational interview?”

Clearly this isn’t as widespread an idea as I thought.

An informational interview is an informal chat with someone in your preferred industry. It should be with someone you admire and want to know more about. Generally over a coffee or lunch, it’s a 30 minute glimpse into the world you want to be in.

During the interview, you want to ask a series of questions that will help you understand their job and how they got there. This is your chance to find out if the job is more desk work than you thought or you need the grammar skills of an English PhD to survive.

It’s also a chance for someone to put a face to the resume. After your interview, they may pass your resume into the HR department or remember you when you apply later. Sometimes, the company may not be hiring right now, but they know another company that is.

But here’s the most important lesson I can impart on this topic:

Informational interviews are not about getting a job.

Read that sentence again. Say it out loud. Write it down so you can remember it.

Sure, in an ideal world, your coffee with the Marketing Director might lead directly to a position in the company. But the Marketing Director met with you to share her wisdom and story. If you start pushing your resume at her and probing her for openings in the company, you will lose her interest.

Be sincere. The information you learn and the connections you make through informational interviews can be more vital than your resume making it to HR’s desk.

In this series, I will walk you through the steps of an informational interview, from researching the company to all the way to writing your thank you note.

So, before the first step, why don’t you tell us who your dream interviewee is? Share in the comments below.

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