Informational Interview

Updated on January 4, 2024
Article byPrakhar Gajendrakar
Edited byRashmi Kulkarni
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

What Is An Informational Interview?

An Informational Interview is an informal conversation between a professional who works in a specific field or with a particular company and a candidate who seeks detailed information about a job role or industry. It is not a job interview, and its purpose is not to find vacancies. It is a way to explore a given field, learn about specific roles and companies, and get some insight into the sector.

Informational Interview

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These interviews are a great way to expand one’s professional network and build relationships with relevant people in the industry who can help candidates advance their careers. With the right information, a candidate can evaluate the job position and understand the job responsibilities. It also sheds light on a company’s culture and overall industry trends. These interviews require an applicant to take certain steps, such as contacting an employer, to increase their chances of getting the job.

Key Takeaways

  • Informational interviews are informal conversations between a job seeker or candidate and an expert, employer, or employee of a particular industry without any promise or liability to hire or select the said candidate.
  • The core purpose of such interviews is to understand how things work and how people operate and to gather as much knowledge as possible about the industry.
  • Such interviews do not necessarily make job offers accessible, but a productive interview may lead to worthwhile industry referrals and recommendations from the interviewee. 
  • Scheduling a meeting with the interviewee in a professional manner, reaching the meeting venue on time, asking relevant questions, and taking notes are some ways to ensure the success of such interviews.

Informational Interview Explained

An informational interview is a casual meeting between a job seeker and a professional (employer or another employee) who is already working in the industry. Job seekers or aspirants connect with professionals in their field of interest to learn more about the job roles and the industry in general and seek career guidance.

The informational interview definition states that it is an informal meeting between a candidate and a professional in a given industry, where candidates ask questions with the objective of collecting information and building strong professional relationships. It is also a great way to build a network within the industry. While there is no guarantee that an informational interview will lead to a job offer subsequently, a successful interview may result in referrals and recommendations from the interviewee.

The most important aspect of such interviews is the list of informational interview questions that an aspirant wishes to ask the industry professional. The questions should be concise and open-ended. They should lead the interviewee to offer other interesting facts about the job or the industry. Aspirants must introduce themselves properly, explaining their personal goals and career objectives. Such interviews can be beneficial, and aspirants must make the most out of them.

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How To Request?

Let us study the process of requesting an informational interview.

  • An aspirant must send a proper informational interview email asking for guidance and professional input from an industry expert, employer, or employee.
  • It is important to mention how the candidate knows the person and explain how they found their contact details. Providing references builds trust in the minds of recipients.
  • Once they secure an appointment, candidates must respect and value the other person’s time and effort and reach the meeting venue on time. 
  • Keeping a list of questions handy is crucial to ensure the interview proceeds and concludes without a hitch.
  • Aspirants should briefly describe their current position and their future professional objectives during the interview.
  • If a cold call request leads to an interview, aspirants must acknowledge the other person’s achievements and growth in the relevant company or industry.
  • While candidates should ideally seek direct guidance and input, attaching their resumes and portfolios (if applicable) is important to impress upon the interviewee how serious they are about growing their career in the specific field.
  • If one does not receive a prompt response, candidates must not operate in haste but follow up politely after a while, clearly explaining why they wish to meet with the recipient of the meeting invitation.

How To Prepare?

Once the person an aspirant contacted replies and agrees to meet, here are some simple informational interview tips to prepare for the meeting.

  • Before the meeting, researching the interviewee and their company is important. Understand their background, job, and the company they are associated with. Keeping a list of questions ready and asking the right questions will create a good impression.
  • It is advisable to discuss one’s career goals and ask relevant questions to get the information needed.
  • An introduction during a one-on-one meeting is the key to making the right impression. Writing a paragraph that describes oneself and explaining why the job seems interesting helps the interviewee assess an aspirant’s candidature. 
  • Delivering the right amount of information clearly in a short span can help get recommendations and referrals.
  • Candidates must reach the meeting venue on time and be professional during the meeting. It is vital to dress in a professional manner.
  • Taking notes indicates to the interviewee that a candidate is serious about career growth. Carrying a notebook or a laptop (with the interviewee’s permission) to take notes during the interview is advisable.
  • Send a thank you note to the interviewee after the interview to express gratitude. 

Examples

Here are two examples for further discussion. 

Example #1

Suppose Evelyn is studying mathematics and wants to become a data scientist. Luckily, one of her acquaintances, Roman, works in the IT sector and specializes in the field of data science and analysis. Evelyn wants to learn more about the industry. She requests Roman to have an informal conversation about his work and the industry in general.

Roman is more than happy to help. They set up a meeting, and Evelyn is curious to know how and what she can do to enter the field of data science. She is good with numbers and statistics but does not have other information. She asks Roman a series of informational interview questions, which he answers in detail. Evelyn takes notes about the varied aspects of the job, including the job role, operations, and industry requirements.

While Roman gives her the information she needs, he makes no promise to Evelyn about helping her secure a job.

Example #2

Let us say Jennifer aspires to become a coder. She is studying computer science and wants to understand how and what will be expected of her when she starts working in the industry. Fortunately, she came across Adam’s profile, who is a coder, on a professional networking platform. Adam has more than ten years of experience. Jennifer decided to contact him via email.

Jennifer writes to him at his official email address, explains why she is writing to him, and asks whether she could meet him for a casual conversation about the industry. Adam agrees to meet Jennifer, and they schedule a meeting.

Jennifer gathers information about Adam’s career, the companies he has worked with to date, and some data about the industry before the meeting. She also prepares a list of questions. On the day of the meeting, Jennifer dressed formally and carried her notepad to the meeting to take notes. 

The meeting goes smoothly, and Jennifer leaves the venue with plenty of inside information about the industry and other relevant insights that she can use to get a good job after graduation.  

Benefits

The benefits of an informational interview have been discussed below. 

  • It helps people get first-hand information about their preferred job or industry.
  • Since it is an informational interview, candidates can ask as many relevant questions as they want to get in-depth information and knowledge of the industry and the company in question.
  • It helps people build professional relationships and network, which is important to secure managerial jobs and top executive positions.
  • Candidates can apply informational interview tips while building their resumes. They can also sharpen their communication and email writing skills.
  • Informational interviews enable candidates to seek more information about a specific industry, which benefits them by engaging with people with shared interests.
  • Through such interviews, applicants can improve their chances of cracking interviews and securing the jobs they prefer.
  • Once candidates have considerable knowledge about an industry through such interviews, they can assess their skills and plan their careers well.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What is the role of an interviewee in an informational interview?

The role of an interviewee in an informational interview is to help candidates understand the job role, industry, and the enterprise they are interested in. When candidates get the opportunity to have informal conversations with employers, it typically leads to many networking opportunities. It acts as a catalyst that prepares candidates for the job roles they are interested in.

2. What are the types of informational interviews?

The types of informational interviews are:
Through cold calls: Interested candidates contact industry professionals and arrange an informal meeting to understand their work.
Through family or friends: In this scenario, people connect with friends, family, and relatives working in the same field in which they are interested in building a career.
Through mutual contacts: In this situation, people with similar work interests get to know each other through mutual contacts. 

3. What is the most important thing to do after an informational interview?

The most important thing a person can do after they have finished their informational interview with an industry professional is to send them regards. Sending a thank you letter via email is advisable, or it can be hand-delivered as a gesture of appreciation. It also helps candidates stay in touch with their mentors and interact with them from time to time.

This article has been a guide to what is an Informational Interview. Here, we explain it with its examples, how to prepare for it, how to request it, & benefits. You may also find some useful articles here –

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