Getting Started with Informational Interviewing

Two professionals discuss their field of expertise.

You do not have to wait for a job opening to seek an interview. Interviews can take place for many reasons, not only because a company is thinking of hiring you. If you are thinking of pursuing new career goals, using your network to secure informational interviews may be exactly what you need to identify opportunities.

Informational interviews are a powerful tool for the savvy professional networker, and anyone who is looking to expand their professional connections. These types of interviews can be useful for making new contacts, strengthening existing relationships, and seeking advice from people outside your immediate workplace.

What exactly is an informational interview?

An informational interview is an interview where you want to learn something, “a meeting featuring a conversation about a particular company or industry between you and someone who may be in a position to help … either directly or indirectly,” explains Andy Teach, a long-time, successful businessman. The end result of such a conversation is not a job or a promotion, but to acquire new information and strengthen a contact.

So how do you get started with informational interviewing?

  1. Know what you want to learn – Do you want to know more about a specific industry? Do you want advice on your career path from a potential mentor? Are you looking for new contacts?
  2. Identify the best contact you know to give you advice – Among the friends and colleagues you already know, is there anyone can give you advice or share what they know to help you? Even if your own network does not already include someone who can help you learn what you want to know, they may know someone else who can help. Start with your own network and be open about what your goals are.
  3. Request an informational interview – Send your contact an invitation for a brief meeting. This can be informal, like a coffee or meeting up after work, but remember to be honest about why you are asking for their time. For example, you could say, “I am thinking about pursuing a job in Industry X, and I would really appreciate your advice.”
  4. Send a thank you – Whether or not someone is able to meet with you, make sure to thank them for their time. Some of your contacts, particularly if they are more senior professionals, may not have time to meet in person, but they may be willing to share their insights with you by email or on the phone. Make sure to recognize them for sharing their time, whatever the result has been. By reinforcing a good impression, you can create an opportunity to contact someone in the future, maybe even encouraging them to introduce you to someone else from whom you can learn.

Informational interviews are an important opportunity to build and grow your professional network. Not every informational interview will yield everything you may want, but you can always learn something. Treat each informational like a learning opportunity and you will not go wrong.

Learn more about the Art of the Informational Interview.