The Function of Informational Interviews
Informational interviewing has strategic value in your job search. The informational interview helps you at several levels: it is a resource for information on a particular position, industry and/or company; it assists you in making informed decisions about your interests and career goals; it is a means to provide direction in your career search; it is an opportunity to practice presenting yourself to professionals in your prospective field (i.e. an opportunity to talk about your career goals, interests and experiences): and finally, it is part of the foundation of networking contacts that may lead to identifying and obtaining a job.
How to Obtain Informational Interviews (Networking)
Identifying potential contacts for information about your profession and job leads may require both being creative and being willing to “put yourself out there.” The initial step is to identify your available resources. Before you go out and make cold calls, think about who you already know that can help you make professional contacts. Be open minded and ready to talk with anyone who might be able to offer you a potential lead.
This includes your network of friends, family, neighbors, coworkers and colleagues, alumni, association members, conference participants, supervisors and professors. For more tips on networking, see this document’s Networking section.
The Difference Between Information Interviews and Job Interviews
The primary difference between an informational interview and a job interview is that in a job interview, you are applying to fill a specific position opening, whereas in an informational interview, your goal is to gather data about your field. While informational interviews establish a network through which you may come in contact with people who are in a position to offer you work, identifying job openings is not the focus of informational interview. Rather, your goal is to obtain information, advice and more contacts. In the course of a meeting, you may learn of job vacancies- consider it a bonus. If you are focus on this as a goal, you will miss out on valuable tips and information about an occupation or industry, and more importantly, you risk making a poor impression on the person you are interviewing.
One way to view networking is to compare it to setting up an experiment. This perspective can help you conceptualize the process and function of informational interviewing. To conduct a productive informational interview, you must do preliminary research, set up the “project” (the interview itself) to most effectively and efficiently gather the information pertinent to your immediate goals, and then utilize the data you obtain to deepen your understanding of your career prospects. Finally, the new information you acquire will provide the basis for directing further research and pursuits.
Eight simple informational interviewing basics to remember:
There are a number of books in the Bookstore that can provide additional insights to this process, offering sample contact letters and suggestions for how to approach this important component of a thorough and effective job search.