Informational Interviewing

Taking part in informational interviewing is hugely beneficial for job seekers who wish to learn more about a specific industry or company.

However, it is a process that is mostly overlooked by job seekers. Informational interviewing is not the same as a job interview. Job interviews take place after a prospective employee has applied for a job and has sent a company his or her resume, while an informational interview takes place long before a job seeker even applies to a company. While they usually last less than 30 minutes, informational interviews can offer great insight into a career field. If you are interested in learning about a specific company, you should not be afraid to ask for an informational interview. Many professionals will grant an interview either on the phone, in person or via online video calling so you can better understand and learn more about a career path that interests you.

Use Informational Interviewing to Your Advantage

Informational interviewing is not the time for you to sell yourself. You should use this time to ask the interviewer as many questions about the company and industry as you can. Before your interview, prepare a list of questions that you would like to ask your interviewer about the company and also the career field. By researching ahead of time, you will show the interviewer that you are not taking their time for granted, and in return, they may open up more to you. While a company may sound ideal on its website, an informational interview will help you get an inside look at the way a company works.

During the interview, you may determine that you love the work environment and the company’s core mission or you may decide that the company is not the right fit for you. Either way, you are gaining valuable information about a potential career field that will ultimately save you time.

Practice Your Interview Skills During Informational Interviews

If you have never been on a job interview, or if it has been a long time, you can use an informational interview to practice your interview skills. It can also help boost your confidence by speaking to a potential boss about your career goals, and your short-term and long-term plans. The more informational interviews that you go on, the most confident you will also carry yourself. So, when it is time to schedule formal job interviews, you will know what questions to ask and how to answer tough career questions.

You Never Know Who You Will Meet

You might not always click with the company that interviews you, but you may click with the interviewer. Often, finding your career path and getting your dream job is about who you know. If you feel that your interviewer might be able to help you further, then they could potentially become your mentor. While you should not openly ask to be their mentee, you should ask if you could follow-up your interview with additional questions. Ask your interviewer for their contact information, then send them a follow-up email later that day. That way, you establish a connection that lasts longer than a quick informational interview. Regardless of whether you want to build a business relationship with your interviewer or not, you should send a thank you note thanking them for their time.

Sitting down with a company employee for an informational interview gives you a significant advantage. You are introducing yourself to the company before you apply for a job, and you are also getting on the company’s radar. If you notice that your interviewer uses the same keywords or phrases repeatedly, it may be helpful to incorporate them into your resume and cover letter to enhance your candidacy for the company. If you do decide to interview for the company at a later date, they will be able to put your face to a name, and you will not just be another name on a resume and cover letter. It also shows that you are a serious candidate since you took the initiative to learn all that you can about the company. The more you learn about a company and an industry, the more you can tailor yourself to become a successful candidate.

Think of Informational Interviewing as a Form of Networking

If you have recently changed careers or would like information about a specific career, informational interviewing could be a great networking tool. The earlier that you start to grow your network, the higher your chance will be of building strong business contacts. If you have a helpful interviewer, they may be able to direct you to organizations that can help you meet additional people in that career field. If the company you speak with is not right for you, they may also be able to introduce you to companies where you may be better suited.

Get First-Hand Knowledge with Informational Interviewing

You can read about a company all you want, but you will not accurately be able to grasp a feel for it until you have stepped foot inside the building. Getting a personal look at a company helps you determine what you do and do not like about a company or industry from a first-hand account. You can tell a lot about a company by merely walking through the front door, which may be helpful if a position within that company does open up. After an informational interview, you will be able to tell whether or not the company or industry is a right fit for you.

Ask Questions that May Not Be Appropriate at Job Interviews

When you are on a job interview, you have to be careful about the questions that you ask. However, during an informational interview, you can ask questions that generally may not seem appropriate in a traditional job interview, such as questions about normal salary ranges, the quality of the benefits, the actual company expectations and any negative aspects of the company culture. You can also get more information about the company itself, such as its strengths and weaknesses, and you can use this advice to strengthen your position as a potential candidate or to assess additional companies better.

Ask Questions that May Not Be Appropriate at Job Interviews

When you are on a job interview, you have to be careful about the questions that you ask. However, during an informational interview, you can ask questions that generally may not seem appropriate in a traditional job interview, such as questions about normal salary ranges, the quality of the benefits, the actual company expectations and any negative aspects of the company culture. You can also get more information about the company itself, such as its strengths and weaknesses, and you can use this advice to strengthen your position as a potential candidate or to assess additional companies better.

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