How to Make the Most of an Informational Interview

The informational interview is the perfect tool to use when you feel stuck in a job search rut or want to explore options before fully committing. Whether you’re still in college or are a seasoned professional, the informational interview gives you a sense of what’s out there and a chance to build relationships that will open doors in the future. Read on to see how you should prepare, what to expect and follow-up steps to ensure a successful informational interview.

Where should I start?

A good place to start is within your own network. Is there an old colleague or classmate working at a company that interests you? Reaching out to someone you are comfortable and meeting them first will make future informational interviews less nerve-wracking. Send an email expressing that you’d like to meet for coffee or a quick lunch and that you’re on the lookout for the next opportunity and you’re interested in their company or department. Be clear with your purpose for meeting in the e-mail. A lot of people will feel like you’re tricking them and will wonder what your motives are if you’re vague and might decline your invite from the get-go.

If you’re ready to reach out to someone outside of your network, it’s best ask a mutual contact to make the introduction first. Check out the person you’d like to meet on LinkedIn and see if you have any mutual connections. Then, kindly ask your mutual contact to make an introduction and always give a reason why. Although cold-emailing someone is less likely to get a response, you should at least try if it’s someone you think will give you valuable information and advice. Like we mentioned earlier, always state your reason for meeting and keep it short and simple. You also might need to settle for an informational interview over the phone versus face-to-face with someone you don’t know personally.

What should I expect?

Informational interviews are usually 15-30-minute exploratory meetings where you ask the questions. The biggest mistake most people make is not preparing the right questions. Even worse, a lot of people show up to informational meetings, and the only thing they’ll say is, “I just wanted to pick your brain on how you got to work at Company XYZ.” Before the meeting, create a list of specific questions that will bring to the light if a role or company is right for you. Questions that you would ask at the end of a regular interview are a good starting point. Informational interviews are usually casual and conversational, but preparing a list of questions will foolproof the meeting from any awkward silences.

What should I do after the interview?

At the end of your informational interview, it’s smart to politely ask if there is anyone that they think you should meet. Ask them if they are willing to make an introduction. This way, you might already have your next informational interview lined up. If you’re searching for a specific role, ask them to keep you in mind if anything related pops up. Like a regular interview, thank the person for their time and send an appreciative e-mail following up on anything you discussed.