An informational interview is a great way to gather valuable information about a certain type of career. The interview involves talking to professionals who already hold positions with a specific company or in a particular field that you’re interested in pursuing. Understanding what an informational interview is and how it’s conducted will help you prepare for it.
It’s important to realize and to make clear to all involved that this is not the same thing as a job interview and you are not requesting a position with a specific company. This particular type of interview is conducted solely for gathering information and nothing else.
Prepare for the interview before you make a request to speak to a professional. Learn all you can about the company, a specific job or anything else you can think of surrounding the type of career you’re interested in. This will help you ask more relevant questions that will provide you with the right type of information.
You can request to have an informational interview with any professional whether you know them personally or not. Of course, it will be solely up to them if they accept your request. You can send a formal request to the company or organization you’re interested in or call and explain your proposal to someone in the personnel office who can connect you with the right person to talk to.
When your request is accepted the next step is to set up the interview for a time that is convenient for the professional you’ll be interviewing. You should also give them the option of conducting the interview in person, by telephone or by using email. Choose a specific time for the meeting and make sure you’re available when it’s time to start and end the meeting at the designated time. Normally, a half an hour is enough time for this type of interview.
Some of the questions to ask in an informational interview include the following:
• Why did you choose this particular career?
• What do you like the most/least about your job?
• What type of education did you need for this particular field?
• What are some of the personal requirements needed to be a success at this type of career?
• When entering this field for the first time, what positions would a person need to fill and how long would they need to work before they would be considered a professional in the field?
• What type of salary is typical for this kind of career? Do not ask what they make personally.
• How many hours do you put in during a typical work week?
• Do you believe this particular field will grow or decline over the next several years?
• Are you satisfied with your career choice?
• What advice would you have for someone who wants to pursue the same career?
Have all of the questions that you want to ask written down and ready for the day of the interview. If you discover your interview is getting off course, politely ask the next question to get back on track. After the interview is over you can give the person extra time to talk about personal things if they want to but don’t let the original interview time get off track or you may not have the answers you need when time runs out.
At the end of the interview make sure you thank the person for their time and the information they provided. It would also be appropriate to send them a Thank-You letter letting them know you truly appreciate the time they gave you. Conducting an informational interview can be very rewarding and help you prepare for your future. It can help you determine if a certain type of career is truly right for you.
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