“Informational interviewing” is a very integral part of the job search process in the USA. The term was coined by Richard Nelson Bolles, author of the best-selling career guide, What Color Is Your Parachute? a practical manual for job hunters and career changers. Bolles refers to the process as “trying on jobs to see if they fit you”.
An informational interview is not the same as interviewing for a job. This is a meeting conducted by a potential job seeker with an employed professional or industry expert to gather information and seek advice on a specific type of job, career, industry, or the corporate culture of a potential future workplace.
If you are new to a country and don’t have a network or knowledge of jobs in your area of expertise, informational interviews can help you build relationships, expand your network, find mentors and receive helpful insider tips and in some cases lead to job referrals.
Here are 15 tips for a successful informational interview:
1. Identify your goals and what you hope to get out of an informational interview.
2. Seek people you want to interview either through referrals, online or at events.
3. Reach out to them and let them know what the objective of the interview is.
4. Request a specific amount of time and ask whether they would like to meet in person or speak on the phone.
5. If they are willing to meet in-person offer to buy them coffee or lunch depending on what time you are meeting with them.
6. Prepare a list of targeted questions that you want to ask at the informational interview.
7. Practice the questions with friends or family so you are well prepared.
8. If it’s an in-person informational interview, dress professionally and arrive on time.
9. Do not exceed the time allocated for your informational interview.
10. Never ask the person you are conducting the informational interview with for a job.
11. Take a copy of your resume along, so you have it on hand in case they want to look at it.
12. Be prepared to answer questions about your professional goals, work experience, education, and why you want to work in this field or with this company.
13. At the end of the interview, ask for introductions to their contacts who might be willing to help you learn more about the industry.
14. Send them a thank-you note or e-mail preferably within two days.
15. Keep them in the loop if you meet with one of their referrals or get a job.