The Numbers of Conducting Informational Interviews
Informational interviews are a useful but often overlooked resource in the hunt for internships or jobs.
What is an “informational interview”; how does it differ from a regular job interview; why should you conduct one; and how do you conduct one?
An informational interview is exactly what it says – it’s an opportunity to gather information, in a structured way, from potential employers or people who hold a job similar to one you’d like to hold or who just have, well…information.
An informational interview differs from a regular job interview in a couple ways:
1. No job is at stake so the pressure is off. In a ‘regular’ interview, you’re selling – selling yourself to the company so that it is clear what a great addition to their team you’d be – and they’re selling to you…but in an informational interview, no selling is going on. You are looking for information only.
2. You control the structure of the interview. You ask the questions. You decide what questions you want answers to and you ask them. You decide the direction of the interview.
There are some valid reasons to conduct informational interviews, the first and most obvious being to get information from your source. One of the “good things” about an informational interview is you can ask just about anything you wish. Anything. We are cautioned to never bring up money in an actual interview but in an informational interview, it is perfectly acceptable to ask, ‘About what can I expect to make starting out in this field?’ or ‘What is a reasonable salary to expect in this field with 5 years’ experience?’
Second, since interviewing is a skill, the more you interview the better you’ll get at it. Conducting informational interviews is great practice for actual interviews. And conducting informational interviews is bound to give insight into what types of questions it would be good to ask in actual interviews.
Third, oftentimes people with whom you conduct informational interviews will have you in mind if they hear of anything that could be of interest to you. Since other people are our greatest sources for getting jobs, the more people you connect with who know of your interests and skills, the greater your chances of landing a strong opportunity.
Challenge yourself to conduct at least one informational interview. Then another. Start with people you feel comfortable with then expand your network. The question you always want to ask before ending an informational interview is, “is there anyone else you’d recommend I speak with?” If they give you a name, ask if you can use their name to set up the appointment.
I urge you not to be afraid of this tremendously useful tool. You will be pleasantly surprised at how it can positively impact your job search.
Arleen Anderson is the University of New Haven’s Director of Employer Relations and Internships, directing the University’s centralized/decentralized internship initiative as well as developing and facilitating partnerships between employers, students and faculty.