Informational Interviews

Now that we've established that networking is necessary and can be fun (remember, it's just having a conversation!), the next step is to prepare to maximize the value generated by each conversation.

What are informational interviews?

Informational interviews are conversations designed for learning, asking questions, and building relationships. Think of it as asking for directions from someone who has more insights and knowledge than you about a subject you are interested in. The goal is to learn and facilitate conversation rather than impress as a potential job seeker. 

Why conduct informational interviews?

So many of us select career paths without actually knowing what the jobs entail and whether or not we would thrive in them. In that case, the result is jobs that don't match our skills, values, interests, and abilities. Gathering relevant information from people in our desired fields helps us determine if we are on the right path and builds our network. 

How do I find contacts?

Often you are reaching out to people you don't know personally, but who are referred to you by family, friends, classmates, or colleagues. Unless they connect you directly, you need to reach out (typically by email or LinkedIn) to request a meeting. Be sure to share your connection, introduce yourself, and ask for a call (check out Outreach Emails for additional information). Remember to use the Student Network!

How do I prepare?

Company research: Be sure to prepare by researching the interviewer and the company. Check out company headlines on their website, Google, common news sources, and additional resources (hint: utilize our library resources while you are a student). LinkedIn is the best way to learn about your interviewer, but you can Google them also. The goal of finding this information is to know what questions to ask (or which topics to avoid) based on the company's current status.

Prepare your stories: In addition to the questions, you want to ask, be sure to prepare your answers to the "big three" questions. Know how you can relate to the interviewer. Plan appropriately for the venue (phone/video/in-person). 

What's the flow of the conversation?

  • Start with small talk. While you do need to mirror the pace and flow of the interviewer, normally you get to start the conversation. Start with questions that are easy for them to answer such as How's your day going so far?, How did you join this company?, or What are you working on right now? This step is critical because it establishes
  • Question and answers. The key is to ask thoughtful questions that will provide the information you are truly curious about. Making the questions fun to answer keeps the conversation interesting for the interviewer also. 
    • Tip: Wondering what to ask? Let the TIARA framework be your guide. TIARA stands for Trends, Insights, Advice, Resources, and Assignments (sample questions here). This framework builds rapport and yields helpful insights. 
  • Next steps. Ideally, your conversation yields additional connections (and potentially referrals). It is up to you to gauge where the conversation may go next, but you always want to thank them for their time in the meeting, then send a thank you note the next day. Make sure you follow through on any topics you discussed including additional contacts to talk to, research on relevant topics, or connecting on LinkedIn. 

The great thing about informational interviewing is it is NOT focused on asking for a job, so you can connect with interesting people and grow your network any time! 

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