Informational Interviews 101

Informational interviews are a key professional development tool, whether you’re considering a new job or simply want to learn more about an industry and network with other professionals. Here’s my guide to being successful at them.

What are they?

Think of an informational interview like a reporter meeting a source. You’re trying to get the inside scoop about an industry, company, or particular role. The meeting itself can be as simple as grabbing coffee or, if distance is an issue, a call over Skype or phone.

It’s important to note that this is not a job interview. If you go into an informational interview expecting a job offer, you’re going to be disappointed.

How do I get one?

There are several ways you can land an informational interview. Let’s take a look at a few of them.

  • Reach out via Twitter
    • Email might still be King in the professional world, but Twitter is definitely Queen. In fact, I’ve got an informational interview this week with a contact that I reached out to via Twitter. Following the right influencers and building relationships with them is key.
  • Search LinkedIn
    • If you have a specific role in mind, search for professionals with that title in your area. Then reach out to them over Twitter or email.
  • Company website
    • You’ve found your dream company. Now, you want to learn more about working there before you actually apply. A great way to do this is by finding someone who you might be reporting to and getting in touch with them.

No matter which method you choose, it’s important to be professional and mention the specific things you’d like to talk about. Not only does it improve the odds that they’ll say “yes”, it’s also helpful for keeping you on track during your meeting.

For more advice on landing an informational interview, check out this article from The Muse.

I finished my interview. Now what?

Follow up with them by sending an email within 24 hours, just as you would with a regular job interview. In your thank-you note, try to mention something you found interesting about their work, or a link to an article that you came across and made you think of what they shared with you.

After this initial follow up, it’s important to keep building this relationship, so it’s not just a one-and-done meeting.

Have you ever done an informational interview? What was your experience like?

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