Getting an informational interview is one thing, but the real
challenge is acing it so you build a foundation for applying for jobs at
Here are some tips to remember when conducting a successful informational interview:
Be on time and respectful of their time.
Just like a "real" interview, tardiness doesn't look professional and
will definitely have a negative impact on your first impression and
connection with your interviewee.
Be prepared with intelligent questions.
You asked to interview them. While your interview may only be 30
minutes, if you don't come with insightful questions, you won't get a
clear view of the company, culture and careers there. You also won't
impress or stand out to the interviewee as someone truly invested in
Don't ask for a job! Just
like in your request for the interview, don't ask for help getting a job
during the interview. They already know you're interested in
opportunities in their company or you wouldn't be interviewing them. Ask
them questions about THEIR career, how THEY got involved in it, THEIR
company and/or its culture. It is okay to mention that you have applied
for a specific opportunity at the company if it is true.
Do ask them how they broke into their careers
and if they have any advice on how to break into a career in their
company. Asking them for a job creates awkwardness and pressure that can
destroy your connection; however, asking them for their story and their
advice allows them to more comfortably help you solve your problem with
tips and insights from their own experience.
Do ask for referrals within the company.
Asking for referrals does a few things. First, it shows that you are
really interested in the company and want to invest more time in
learning about careers there. Second, asking for an informational
interview from the second person, third and so on will become much
easier to get when you can mention that someone they know in the
organization referred you. Third, you start to create a team of internal
champions who now know you and can speak to your value and personal
brand when an opportunity does come up.
Offer some ideas,
if appropriate, to show that you're creative and invested in their
company and/or projects. They will likely not be able to share a great
deal of information with you due to confidentiality policies; however,
do a little research and offer some ideas based on what you can see from
the outside. This does involve a calculated risk, but can pay off if
your ideas add value to their own.
Offer to help them,
if appropriate. If you identify an opportunity where you can help, such
as putting them in touch with someone you know, it could build an even
Follow up with a thank you note.
You should always show your appreciation for the interviewee's time and
insight by sending them a thank you. You can send an email, but again,
if you want to stand out, a hand-written thank you physically mailed
will continue to enhance your personal brand.
Follow up periodically
to keep yourself top-of-mind for future opportunities that come up or
that you apply for. I recommend that you ping these individuals every
month or two with just a short email checking in. It should not be a
request for a job, but should just let them know you're still out there.
If you have applied for a job, let them know and ask them if there is
anyone else you might speak with to learn more about the opportunity.
This may also lead to them talking internally to help you move to the
next level of consideration.
Only about 20% of all jobs are
publicly posted online. Informational interviews will help you reach the
people behind the postings and will increase your chance of finding and
being considered for jobs, especially the "hidden" ones not publicly
Chris Perry, MBA, is a Gen Y brand and marketing generator, brand marketing manager,
career search and personal branding expert, professional speaker,
entrepreneur and brand consultant. Chris is the founder of Career
Rocketeer, the Career Search and Personal Branding Network, MBA Highway,
the MBA Job Search and Career Network and multiple other ventures.
Learn more about Chris on his website: http://chrisperry.me