How To Get the Most Benefit From an Informational Interview

By Indeed Editorial Team

December 8, 2021

Related video: Top Interview Tips: Common Questions, Body Language and More

If you want to know more about a career, consider asking someone with first-hand experience for an informational interview. This brief meeting is an effective way to learn more and gain advice from someone with experience in a job, career path or industry that interests you. The interview provides insight into the realities of working in a certain position or field, whether the role is a good fit for you and if you should pursue it. In this article, we discuss what an informational interview offers, how to prepare for one and what do after it’s over.

What is the purpose of an informational interview?

An informational interview is an informal question-and-answer discussion between a job seeker and an employed professional to learn as much as possible about a certain career, industry and/or company culture. It is not a job interview—it is closer to an informal conversation. These interviews typically last 15-30 minutes.

The goal of a successful informational interview is to come away from the conversation with a clearer picture of a career, industry or company knowledge. Other benefits include:

  • Learning how to research or screen careers, positions or employers

  • Preparing for future job interviews

  • Learning how to ask direct and follow-up questions

  • Increasing network contacts

  • Learning steps to pursue a potential career

  • Recognizing your strengths and weaknesses for a potential role

How to set up an informational interview

It’s important to take the right steps when considering an informational interview. Ask yourself the following questions to lay the foundation for the meeting:

1. What are my goals for an interview?

Consider your goals for the informational interview. Are you more interested in this professional’s skills and experiences, their company or information about the industry? You’re more likely to receive a positive response from the person if you can clearly communicate what you hope to gain from the meeting.

Who should I interview?

Consider asking for an interview with someone in your industry, field or a company that interests you. Ideally, you want to meet someone working in your dream role at your dream company. You might consider reaching out to someone who:

  • Works at a company where you may seek employment

  • Has experience in your career path or industry

  • Attends a university where you may seek admission

  • Teaches higher education programs related to your career interests

  • Holds certifications or credentials that you’re interested in pursuing

  • Has an education or professional background similar to what you have

Once you decide who you want to ask for an interview, do your research to find out more about them.

How do I ask for an interview?

Now that you’ve decided who you’d like to interview, it’s time to ask if they’re interested. This should be done privately by email, online platform or social media that allows messaging. It’s not appropriate to ask for an informational interview across an open social media platform such as Twitter or Facebook. Your message should be professional and polite, clearly stating why you are specifically reaching out to them.

Request for informational interview template

Here’s a template for an email requesting an informational interview:

Subject: [Your name]—informational interview request

Dear [Name of recipient],
[Write how you heard about the company or recipient]. I find the work you perform incredibly interesting and would like to know more about what you do.
I would greatly appreciate learning about [insert what you want to know].

I know you’re probably busy, but would you be available for an informational interview [suggest at least one date and time]? Let me know if you can meet at one of those times or if there’s a better time for you.

I appreciate your time and thank you in advance.

Sincerely,

[Your name]

[Your contact information]

Request for informational interview example

Subject: Grace Jones—informational interview request

Dear Mrs. Fergilli,

My name is Grace Jones. For the last five years, I have worked as a consultant with our mutual friend, Henry Smith, and he recommended I listen to your podcast on the issues facing women in management roles. I really appreciate the insights you shared. I hope you might be able to meet for coffee or lunch to discuss this further. I have some questions I would love to ask you on that subject; specifically, the best way to approach pursuing promotions.

Of course, if it is more convenient to talk on the phone for 15-20 minutes, that would work well for me also. I have some free time next Wednesday, Thursday and any time the following week. if any of those options are convenient for you.

Thank you again for sharing your experiences, and I look forward to speaking with you.

Sincerely,

Grace Jones
784-568-9241
g_jones@email.com

Read more: How To Ask for an Informational Interview

How can I get the most from an informational interview?

Follow these steps to plan and conduct an effective informational interview:

1. Research the industry and the organization

Informational interviews are a great way to acquire insider information but to do that properly, you should first thoroughly research the industry and the company that interest you. This will increase your credibility as you ask questions that don’t have easily accessible answers.

Search out information and resources to learn as much as you can about industry terminology, latest industry trends, important figures in the market and the company’s reputation. Seek out details about the company’s culture, history and future plans. Doing your research will help you determine what first-hand information to ask about during your informational interview.

Read more: The Complete Guide To Researching a Company

2. Prepare a list of questions

You should be prepared to lead the interview. To properly do that, you have to be ready with open-ended questions about the person’s role in the company, area of expertise and details regarding their company culture.

You can organize your questions by category to help maintain conversational flow. They can be separated into different groups, such as the industry in general, the organization’s culture, what the interviewed person’s role is and what it implies. You might ask about other important details like work-life balance or the work environment. Consider highlighting the questions most important to you to ensure you ask them before the meeting ends.

Example questions:

  • What has been your career progression?

  • How would you describe the culture of your company?

  • What skills or abilities do I need to be competitive in this field?

  • What changes have you seen happen to this industry over the last five years?

  • What does the day-to-day look like in your role?

Read more: Informational Interview Questions

3. Be professional

Although an informational interview is not a job interview, professional behavior will likely increase the odds of getting the information you want and impressing the person. You should respect the professional’s schedule by showing up on time or even arriving a few minutes early. You should be dressed according to the position you are seeking, and in most cases, regular business attire is the right choice.

It’s also important to take the time beforehand to ensure you properly pronounce the interviewee’s name and know exactly what their position is within the company.

Here are some tips for an informational interview:

  • Arrive early: Even if the meeting is virtual, arrive early to respect your interviewee's time.

  • Actively listen: Actively listen, so you can follow up on new information your interviewee has shared.

  • Be respectful: End on time and follow up with any questions or request an additional meeting in an email afterward. Also, be respectful of any information they are not comfortable sharing.or experiences that the interviewee is not comfortable sharing.

  • Be open: Be open to sharing your own experiences so your interviewee can guide you appropriately.

4. Be courteous and appreciative

Remember the interviewee is not meeting with you as a professional duty but as a favor to you. In both the introductory email or phone call and the conversation itself, let them know you consider them a respected name in their field and that you are grateful for the opportunity they’ve given you. You should also mention your objective is to gain valuable advice and not a particular job.

5. Keep the introductory phase short

People often enjoy talking about themselves, so start by asking general questions regarding their experience with their company and in the industry. Ask how they got into that field, what their general impressions are regarding the company they work for and plans and developments both within the company and the entire field.

When you introduce yourself, be prepared to answer questions about your professional or personal development and career goals. An effective way to make a good impression and share information about yourself is to prepare an elevator pitch before the interview.

6. Find out what you want to know

By doing your research and keeping the introduction short, you can use the remaining time to ask about all the details you are interested in uncovering. If you want to determine if a field or industry is right for you, focus on specific questions about the person’s experience within the industry. If you’re interested in working at their company, your questions should focus on that. Use your list of questions to help keep the conversation on track and be sure to take notes.

You shouldn’t expect a regular interview when a person answers one question at a time. Your open-ended questions should encourage the interviewee to elaborate with details. Try to go deeper into issues you are interested in by asking follow-up questions to their answers.

7. Don’t ask for a job

Remember your purpose is to seek advice and information, not a job offer. Asking for a job may make them more reserved and less likely to answer questions freely.
If the interviewee offers to recommend you for a certain position or forward your resume to a hiring manager, show your gratitude and take advantage of the opportunity.

8. Use the opportunity to network

You can expect the person you are talking with to know others who may be willing to share information with you. Use the final minutes of your informational interview to ask them to recommend two or three people who can help you increase your knowledge even more.

The key is to be as specific as possible. Based on answers during the conversation, you can determine what areas you want to know more about. Also, asking for specific contacts will increase the odds of your interviewee thinking of someone who can help you.

How to write a thank-you note for the interview

Sending a thank-you note shows your appreciation to the person for taking the time to meet with you and provide valuable insights. It also opens the door for ongoing communication which could lead to potential opportunities. Here are some tips for writing a thank you note or email after your conversation:

1. Use a business format

Prepare your email as you would any business email. Include the company's name, name and title of the person you interviewed. You want to add a proper salutation appropriately formatted paragraphs.

2. Show your appreciation

Explicitly thank the individual for taking the time to meet with you. You might include a few specific details about what you learned or how a certain question was answered.

3. Reiterate your interest

Speak to how your interest in the industry, company or position was reinforced by this conversation. Ask if you may contact them in the future if you have additional questions. Your relationship with your interviewee could become an important part of your professional network.

4. Provide contact details

Finally, include, your name and your contact information in the closing. Providing methods for the individual to reach you can encourage future communications and may even lead to future opportunities.

Example of a thank you email

Here is an example to help you craft a thank-you email:

June 3, 2021
Halle Fredrickson, CEO
Maple Leaf Construction and Surveying, LLC

Dear Ms. Fredrickson,
I am sending this email to express my gratitude and utmost appreciation for your taking the time to meet with me today. I appreciate your patience and eagerness to answer my questions and provide additional information about your company and how your staff approaches taking on new clients. I especially appreciate your giving me the resources necessary to obtain my contractor's license.

I also wanted to thank you specifically for discussing training methods to take on new apprentices and hope to continue our discussion again in the future. The new standards for trades and protocol for training you mentioned will be valuable resources for my career.

Since I mentioned that I have extensive experience with initiating construction projects, I would like to offer my assistance should Maple Leaf Construction and Surveying ever need additional support. You may contact me anytime, and I look forward to future contact with you.

Thank you again for your time and consideration.

Best,
Jeremy Yazer
(245) 112-0099
j-yazer@email.com
JYazerProjectPortfolio.com

Read more: How To Write an Informational Interview Thank You Email (With Template and Example)

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