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An informational interview is a conversation you have with someone working in a field or industry that interests you. This can be as informal as a discussion over a cup of coffee or as formal as a defined interview in their workplace or over lunch. This is not a job interview, but a chance to learn, research your chosen career path, and seek career advice from someone who is familiar with the kind of role you would like to hold in the future. Think of these interviews as a unique opportunity to advance your own career and gain some professional connections.
While it can feel awkward to put yourself out there in this way, there are a number of benefits to seeking informational interviews. They can help you to excel in your current position or begin the process of career development. For example, you could seek an informational interview with hiring managers in your particular career field to get an idea of how you can improve your CV and cover letter and ultimately increase your chances of finding a new job when you’re ready to progress.
While an informational interview is not a job interview, it is a chance to make a good impression on the people you speak to. The professional associations you make when undertaking these interviews can be helpful in the long term. If you impress the right people, they may put in a good word for you with hiring managers in the event that a job does become available.
Whether you’re seeking an entry-level job or looking to take your career to the next step, the insider knowledge you can gain from an informational interview can be incredibly helpful in a future job search.
Conducting these kinds of interviews can also help you to create a professional network early in your career. Knowing people and making a good impression on them can lead to many learning and employment opportunities.
Being able to network effectively can make the difference between a very successful interview and a mediocre one. CVHelp’s networking tips can help you make the most of informational interview opportunities.
The benefits of an informational interview are determined by which questions you ask, of course. When you connect with people in your chosen career path, it is important that you take the lead while still allowing the interviewee to do the majority of the talking. You should start by asking the questions that most interest you, and if your interviewee says something of particular interest, you should ask follow-up questions. Here are some sample questions that you could ask during an informational interview:
Try to have questions in mind before you even reach out to someone, whether that’s via social media like LinkedIn or via more formal channels. Coming into an informational interview with a firm idea of what you want from it is the best way to get results.
You should aim for asking between five and 10 questions in an informational job interview. This will help you gather information about the career field in general, but also about the specific jobs you’re interested in.
The person you are interviewing should talk for the majority of the interview. If you intend to learn as much as possible and boost your job search, you should limit yourself to questions and follow-up questions, unless the interviewee asks you some questions of their own, of course – it’s always good to build rapport in an interview.
Once the interview is complete follow up with your interviewee to thank him or her for their time, and ask any questions that have come up since the interview. It’s also an opportunity to seek referrals or introductions to more professionals who have important knowledge about the career field you’re interested in. You could also ask what steps they would recommend you take when pursuing professional development.
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