Informational interviews are valuable at every stage of your career, whether you’re attending school, looking for employment, moving to a new location or changing careers.
You may consider informational interviews when you want to start a company, write a book or learn tactics for improving your marketability through skills like fundraising, photography and more.
Informational interviews can answer questions about a profession you’re interested in or help you make an inside contact at a company where you hope to work. They offer you a way to practice your interviewing skills without the structure and stress of a formal job interview. Use informational interviews to learn more about a company or field you are targeting or to discover what it’s like to work for an employer.
The informational interview process
Approach your current contacts — friends, family, school or business associates and even your LinkedIn connections — and ask for introductions to people they might know who hold your job of interest or work in a position or industry you are interested in.
Connect with the Military Spouse eMentor Program, Military Spouse Employment Partnership LinkedIn Spouse Group and the Spouse Ambassador Network to build and expand your networking connections with other military spouses, as well as organizations and groups who are supportive of military spouse employment, to request informational interviews.
If you can’t find a contact to make an introduction, consider asking someone at the local Chamber of Commerce, a professional association or a local business group for their assistance. You can also approach a company directly to request an informational interview. Try to find a person whose position fits your goals rather than approaching human resources because they may just suggest you fill out an application.
Once you have contact information, call or email the person, frame your request and ask for a meeting, typically lasting 15 to 30 minutes. Most people enjoy taking a short time out of their day to talk about their professional lives, so don’t hesitate to make the connection. For a sample email and list of possible interview questions, visit Informational Interviews on CareerOneStop.
Follow these tips for a successful informational interview.
- Do your research and learn as much as you can about the person you’re interviewing before your meeting.
- Know the questions you want to ask.
- Dress as you would for a job interview.
- Be on time or arrive a few minutes early.
- Give a brief overview of your education and employment history and restate that your objective is to get information and advice, not a job.
- Listen, ask questions and show you’re interested.
- Encourage the contact to do most of the talking.
- Ask if you could call on him or her in the future if you have additional questions.
- Request a referral, if applicable.
- Have your resume with you, but don’t offer it unless the person requests it.
After the interview —
- Record what you learned, what more you want to know and your impressions of the company or the industry.
- Send a professional thank you note within two to three days. This can be a card, a business letter or an email, depending on the formality of your meeting.
Remember, this meeting is not a job interview or a way to find out about open positions, but instead, it is an opportunity to have an informal conversation with someone who can offer you information and advice. Perhaps you’ll impress him or her enough to recommend you for future employment opportunities.
If you have questions on informational interviews or any other aspect of your job search, call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 and speak with a SECO career coach or use the Live Chat feature on MySECO for additional guidance. You can also visit the Find a Job section of the Career Connections lifecycle stage of MySECO for more information.