How To Prepare for an Informational Interview

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated June 9, 2022 | Published February 25, 2020

Updated June 9, 2022

Published February 25, 2020

Related: Informational Interview Tips: Scheduling, Example Questions to Ask & More

Learn what an informational interview is and how informational interviews can benefit you in your current job search.

Networking is becoming an increasingly crucial part of the job search process. As you put your resume out there, you may want to consider requesting and conducting informational interviews with an industry professional.

In this article, we discuss what informational interviews entail, the advantages they can offer and the steps you can follow to effectively prepare for an informational interview.

Related: Essential Job Search Guide

What is an informational interview?

An informational interview is a meeting that you schedule with a professional to discuss their job and the company where they work. The goal of an informational interview is to gain valuable insight into what it is like to work in the interviewee's specific industry or position. Informational interviews are a form of networking that allows individuals with less experience to learn from more seasoned professionals.

Typically, the person who is seeking information is responsible for setting up the interview. They will initiate contact, request an hour or so of the interviewee's time and then determine the time and place. The meeting often takes place in the interviewee's office or in a nearby coffee shop or restaurant. The interviewer will typically pay the check or bring a small gift to show their appreciation.

Related: 10 Tips To Help You Network Like a Pro

Advantages of informational interviews

Informational interviews potentially have many several exciting benefits. First, informational interviews allow you to gain practical insight into a company or industry. If you are interested in an industry but are unsure of certain factors like salary, work environment or schedule, conducting an informational interview can provide you with the answers you need to make a decision.

Additionally, informational interviews can help you add influential industry professionals to your personal network. If you follow up with interviewees after your meetings and stay in touch, they could be valuable contacts to have later.

Finally, informational interviews can help you acquire an industry referral. If you make a positive impression on your interviewee, they may offer to forward your resume to their hiring manager or to introduce you to a colleague at a different company. Potential employees who have industry referrals are far more likely to be invited to interview than a job applicant with no company connections.

Related: Informational Interview Questions

How to prepare for an informational interview

There are several necessary steps you must follow to successfully prepare for an informational interview. Here are some steps to follow:

  1. Contact the interviewee.

  2. Conduct detailed research.

  3. Make a list of questions.

  4. Practice in advance.

  5. Dress appropriately.

1. Contact the interviewee

The first step in preparing for your informational interview is to find and contact an interviewee. To do this, you need an idea of what kind of information you are looking for. If you are interested in learning more about the software development industry, you might reach out to a computer programmer, web designer or CEO of a software start-up. If you want to know what kinds of jobs are available in the resort industry, you could contact a hotel manager, hospitality host or travel coordinator.

Once you have decided who you would like to meet with, you can reach out to them by phone, email, letter or in-person. If you are already acquainted with them, your invitation to meet might be somewhat informal. However, if you have not met your interviewee before, your request should be polite and professional. When you ask for an informational interview, you are asking a busy professional to share some of their valuable time with you. Be sure to express how appreciative you would be if they agreed to meet with you.

2. Conduct detailed research

If your interviewee agrees to meet, you can move on to the next step: research. You should research both the interviewee and the company they work for. Try to find out their job title, their responsibilities and how long they have worked for their current employer. Research the company's impact on the industry and what sets it apart from competitors. If you collect this kind of information in advance, you will be equipped to ask detailed and relevant interview questions.

3. Make a list of questions

One of your priorities during an informational interview is to not waste your interviewee's time. To this end, it is important to have a plan for how the interview will progress. One method is to write out a list of the questions you want to ask. These questions should focus solely on the interviewee. You can ask them about their work experience, what they enjoy about their job and what advice they have for someone seeking an entry-level position. Ideally, your questions should offer opportunities for your interviewee to share their insight into the industry and their professional expertise.

4. Practice in advance

Practice your interview ahead of time is an effective method for conquering nerves and increasing your confidence. You can practice in the mirror, with a friend or on camera. The goal should be to become comfortable asking your questions which can help the real interview feel more natural. Participating in a mock interview will also help you to plan out your talking points and estimate how long it takes to ask your questions. Your interviewee may only have 15 or 30 minutes of availability, so timing your practice sessions can help you determine whether you need to cut any questions.

5. Dress appropriately

On the day of your interview, you will need to choose an appropriate outfit. This can take different forms depending on the formality of the interview setting and how well you know your interviewee. As a rule, you should dress the same way you would for a job interview. Your goal is to present yourself as a qualified professional. Make sure your clothing is clean, without any rips or stains. Also, try to avoid accessories or styles that could prove distracting.

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