How to Arrange and Conduct an Informational Interview

Quick Navigation:

An informational interview is a process that allows you to switch roles with senior professionals who would ordinarily ask you the questions at an interview. It gives you the chance to find out more about a specific role. This article will explain what an informational interview is, what to expect and how to prepare.

What is an informational interview?

An informational interview is a meeting that you arrange with an experienced professional so they can give you advice on succeeding in your chosen career. You are the one conducting the interview, which means that you need to set questions and lead the conversation. 

Informational interviews are generally informal. You don’t need to wear a suit or bring a resume, and you can arrange to meet somewhere like a coffee shop. However, the person you are interviewing is doing you a favor, so remember to be respectful and appreciative of their time. 

How to arrange an informational interview

Arranging an informational interview is different because you have to reach out to people and arrange the interview by yourself. Don’t worry. With some planning and preparation, organizing an informational interview can be easy. 

Here’s how to arrange an informational interview:

1. First, plan what you want to learn about

Before you start, you should have a clear idea about what you would like to achieve. Maybe you’re looking for guidance in beginning a career from someone who works in a specific industry, someone who’s employed at your dream company, or someone with the same background as you.

2. Then, find some candidates

Your personal network of family and friends might be able to put you in touch with someone who can help. Otherwise, you can look on social media to find people who can help answer your questions.  

3. Next, send a polite message

A lot of professionals will be happy to help someone who’s starting out on a new career. However, it’s likely that their time is limited. Send a short message politely explaining who you are and why you’d like to speak with them. 

4. Lastly, arrange a time and place

You’re more likely to get a meeting if you work around your interviewee’s schedule. Let them pick a time and place, and plan to arrive early.

When reaching out to people you haven’t met, you can approach it professionally and you’ll often find that they will be glad to talk to you. 

What to ask at an informational interview

To get the most out of an informational interview, you’ll need to have a set of questions prepared. Cover the topics that are most relevant to you, including advice on qualifications and work experience. 

Before you begin discussing your main topic, you might want to start with a few opening questions. 

These can be questions about your interviewee like:

  • How long have you been in this industry?
  • What made you decide to get into this industry?
  • What were some of the biggest obstacles you faced when starting out?
  • If you were in my position and starting again, what would you do differently?
  • How long have you been with your current employer?
  • How do you think this industry has changed for the better in recent years?
  • What are you most proud of?

These questions will help the interviewee relax and get into the flow of the conversation. They can share some of their personal experience with you, which will tell you a lot about your chosen occupation.

In the second part of the interview, you can broaden the conversation and ask more general questions, such as:

  • How good are the employment prospects in this area right now?
  • What are salaries like in this industry?
  • Tell me about some of the important trends that will shape things over the next few years.
  • Is your company expanding, downsizing or holding steady right now?
  • On average, how long does it take to get from an entry-level job to a senior position?
  • Is it better to be a contracted employee or to work as a freelancer or consultant?

Finally, you can ask for some personal advice. Remember, however, that your interviewee is not a career advisor or an HR professional. They may not be able to answer everything about entry-level positions. You can keep this discussion brief.

Some examples of personal questions are:

  • Do you think my qualifications are suited to a job in this industry?
  • With my background and experience, what kind of job should I look for?
  • If I tell you my interests and passions, could you tell me if you think this industry is right for me?
  • Do you have any advice for next steps?

Informational interviews are the same as other interviews in the sense that the interviewee should do most of the talking. As the interviewer, your role is to ask questions that keep the conversation on track, without interrupting the other person too much.

Following up after your informational interview

Once you’ve finished your informational interview, you can follow it up with a thank you email or letter. Interviewees like to know that they were able to help in some way. They also like to know that you appreciate their time.

Informational interviews are an excellent way of networking. Your interviewee might be able to recommend colleagues who can do additional interviews. Once you’ve interviewed several professionals, you’ll find that you suddenly have a professional network. 

This might not lead to a job offer right away. However, if you’re showing initiative and making connections, your new contacts might keep you in mind the next time their company is hiring.