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Informational Interviews: Learning From the Pros
Friday, April 06, 2012

Ever been in an interview and wish you could turn the tables? Well, you have that chance to in an informational interview.

An informational interview is exactly what it sounds like. In a job interview, the interviewer asks you questions  to gather information which will help them determine whether you are the right candidate. In an informational interview, you get to ask the questions of the industry professional to gain insight that will become valuable in your job search.

Even though you get to ask the questions you must still treat it like a formal job interview. Informational interviews are your opportunity to learn about the field, find out about employment leads and broaden your network.

Since you're the one who wants to pick the other person's brain, you'll also have to be the one to set the interview up. You can initiate them through social networks, ads, job boards, company websites, or any other way you can find to reach out to an industry professional. Set an amount of time but don't expect them to be lengthy, even 15 minutes is typical.

Don't take for granted that the person is doing you a favor so make sure to polish your interview etiquette. You want to make the best impression because they could potentially help you in other ways within the industry besides offering you pointers.

A good place to start is with people you've worked with in the past. Even if you want to work in a completely new industry, the knowledge they've gained from their experiences are equally beneficial. Don't neglect friends and family who may also have expertise insight in their own industries.

Here are some additional ideas of starting places to find people to interview:

  • Your school's alumni directory
  • Professors and faculty
  • Former colleagues
  • Friends' parents
  • Your parents' friends
  • Professional and/or local organizations
  • Industry-specific networking events, workshops and seminars
  • Online and offline trade publications and newsletters

Remember, you'll still need to follow-up with a thank you letter to express your gratitude for their time and help. These professionals are extremely good additions to your network since they have substantial influence. The more of these you do, the more you'll know about the industry and have an upper hand. With any luck you might also gain a mentor.