The Art of the Informational Interview

young man talks with mentors

Imagine that you have an informational interview with a senior professional who works at a company where you want to work. You have done some preparation for the meeting, so how do you make sure you have a productive interview?

Check out our guide on getting started with informational interviewing.

The most important preparation you can make is doing your research. Try to learn about the person you are meeting with, the company or organization they work for, and other background information. Once you know this information, you can ask specific questions that will help you understand how to learn from their experience.

The New York Times also shares this advice:

  1. The other person is doing you a favor, so it should be about what’s convenient for the interviewer, not you. Follow his or her lead as to whether meeting will be in person or by phone.
  2. These meetings are not about asking for job leads; the point is to learn something.
  3. Think about informational interviews as a way to build a relationship and expand your network, not as a way to get a job.
  4. Wait for the right time. So often we get a number and feel as if we should call immediately. But if you’re not ready, you may bungle a meeting. What are some signs that you should wait to reach out?
    • If you’re overextended and it’s hard to find time on your calendar.
    • If you haven’t done enough research about the industry or the company where the person works.
  5. Don’t overstay your welcome. It’s always better to signal that the meeting is ending and let the other person say he or she is open to continuing the discussion.

Most importantly, remember that an informational interview is an opportunity to learn and grow your professional network. And make sure to thank the person you meet for their time. The person with whom you meet may turn into a mentor or become a future colleague. You will want to know that you are on friendly terms for your future career.

Even if you learn that you do not want to follow the career path of the person you met, you have learned something valuable. Make sure to recognize your contact for providing useful information for your career.