An informational interview is a meeting you set up with a person whose job you are interested in. The purpose is to find out more about the realities of their role. It’s an excellent way to find information you won’t find in printed resources or online publications.
Informational interviews offer an insider’s view of a particular job and can cover such things as what a job is like, what they do day to day, the responsibilities involved, and what it's like to work for a particular company.
Informational interviews are far less formal and less stressful than a typical job interview. As the initiator, you are the one who is asking the questions and so you can ask about what interests you. The questions you ask may be quite different to those you would ask in a job interview, for example, you may ask about salary, benefits or leave entitlements. As well as providing access to valuable information, this type of interview helps to build confidence and interview skills for more formal job interviews.
It’s very important that you always behave professionally during these interviews. Treat the interviewee with respect. Arrive on time, dress professionally and make sure that you know how to pronounce that name of the person you are meeting with.
There are many questions you can ask in the informational interview. It’s okay to take notes during the meeting but make sure that that this doesn’t interrupt the flow of conversation between you. It’s important to build rapport. When you leave the meeting you can jot down some notes on any new understandings that you have discovered.
Always remember to send a thank you note to the person you have interviewed. Let them know if you’ve followed up on any of their suggestions. The better your relationship is with them, the more likely it is that they will offer to help you when the time comes for you to look for a job.
If you’d like more information on how to arrange and prepare for an informational interview, or a list of suggested interview questions, have a look at the resources on our Career Development Centre website.