An informational interview is when people get together to discuss a particular career, job or industry. For example, an aspiring entrepreneur might interview successful business owners. A career changer might interview people in their new field. An informational interview is different from a job interview because the candidate sets up the interview and there may be no vacancy.
In a slow market, informational interviews can be very useful. They increase your knowledge, create new contacts and you learn from the people who have already done what you want to do. Getting as many perspectives and expert knowledge in a tough market is very handy.
The people you will talk to are not ‘interviewers’ as such. They are more advisers as they play a kind of mentoring role. You requested a get together with them to pick their brains, so make the most of it. Learn what you can and ask open-ended questions about the career opportunities.
To win any opportunity, you need to ask creative questions and give honest answers to informational interview questions. You can look up sample questions on the internet. Plus, if you give the best answers to potential employers, you might be offered a job then and there.
What you should not say in an informational interview:
- Never speak badly of anyone you have worked for – the company, employer or management. Talking about how terrible things were and how you hated it will make a really bad impression.
- Never ask basic questions about the company, like ‘What does your company do?’ You should know all this before the informational interview. If you do ask these sorts of questions it will reflect badly on you.
- Do not discuss remuneration unless the ‘interviewer’ brings it up. If the only thing you seem to care about is the pay, they are not going to like it at all. You are here to pick their brain, not their pocket.
Typical interview questions
1. What appeals to you about this work?
Anyone who asks this wants to know how engaged you are. To answer this, you can bring up some of the unusual aspects of the work. How motivating the work would be. You can also say that you get a lot of satisfaction from doing this type of work. Being enthusiastic will put you one step closer to being hired.
2. Why should we offer you this job?
Interviewers, advisers and mentors test candidates by asking hard questions. This is your chance to lay your talents out on the table so the ‘interviewer’ feels, yes, you are a good fit for this career. So you should show your interest, skills and ability to do the job. You can also say you are a person who gives 100 percent.
3. What is your main strength?
Again, mention your positive qualities like your confidence and potential to win target customers. You have excellent communication skills. You can say that you are a positive and optimistic person who finds solutions for challenges.
Listen and Respond
Listen carefully to what the person says. What is the point of asking a question if you don’t listen to the answer?
Listening to others means you can interact in an engaging way which will lead you into a deeper conversation. That is how you can make your mark. People will remember you for your politeness and attention.
If you are given a chance to ask questions, ask intelligent show-you-care ones. This will make the ‘interviewer’ feel you are genuinely interested. You can ask about what direction that career may go in the future. How might the industry expand? Ask a question you would not find the answer to on a website.
Work Your Introduction
Introductions are often loaded, mentally and physically. Even heads of states get stuck when they first meet people. Within a few seconds people have already decided a lot about you.
You will be asked some general introductory questions. You should respond truthfully. If your answers are made up, you will be found out and that can devastate developing friendships.
It is a good idea to follow up after informational interviews, so you will need to take notes. Another thing you can do is ask for contact names and details from the people you spoke to. They may know people who want someone just like you.
The informational interview is one of the best ways of networking. Send your adviser/interviewer an email, thanking them for their time. This will put you in the front of their mind again (don’t forget to include your phone number!).
The informational interview – because it is not a regular interview – is a good way to find out about openings that are not advertised. Good luck at your next one!
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