Unlike a job interview, the goal of an informational interview is not to obtain a job offer. Instead the informational interview is designed to help you learn about a career and a specific position. You are the interviewer, not the interviewee. You should come away from the informational interview with a clear idea of what the interviewees typical job duties are, what his or her normal working conditions are like, and what his vision of the prospects for the profession are.
Ideally, you should talk to several people in your targeted field at levels above and below your targeted position. This will give you a 360 view of your position. You do not have to conduct all of your informational interviews with the same company. In fact, a better idea is to canvas several companies so that you obtain a broader view of the position and the profession. Remember the goal is to gather information that will help you decide on a career. You are on a fact-finding mission gathering information for your potential future career!
When you are interviewing for a job, you are being carefully examined and everything that you say and do is being studied. Your interviewer is trying to make a decision about your potential with her company. Alternatively, when you conduct an informational interview, you are asking the questions and will be making the decisions about future career plans. That doesn’t mean that you don’t have to take an informational interview seriously and conduct yourself in a professional manner. Even though you aren’t interviewing for a job, you are discussing the profession with a potential future colleague – perhaps a future supervisor or even a future employee. Make the best impression that you can.
Later when you are job hunting, your informational interviewees may agree to become part of your job search network, if you managed to impress them positively. Here are some final points to consider when planning and conducting an informational interview:
1. Be punctual, don’t make the interviewee wait for you, be prepared 10-15 minutes beforehand and use the time to make any final preparations for the interview.
2. Be prepared, organize your questions, and record the responses with a handheld recorder (with your interviewee’s permission) or take notes.
3. Give an estimate of the time you will need to ask your questions and ask the most important ones first. Also make sure to stick to your time estimate, don’t abuse your interviewee’s time.
4. Let the interviewee do the talking, use active listening skills to indicate that you are focused on her answers, ask intelligent follow-up questions when appropriate.
Joseph Delos Reyes is a brand manager for both eFreeResume.com, a free resume builder and Professor Teaches Computer Training Programs.