The Best Kept Secret for Career Planning – The Informational Interview, Part 1

A look at informational interviews, how to arrange one, questions to ask, follow-up and other helpful tips.

Never heard of this? You wouldn’t be the only one. Informational interviews provide a wealth of information when it comes to career planning, yet so many people are unaware that it even exists. It’s nothing new, in fact far from it. Richard Bolles, author of “What Color is Your Parachute? A Practical Manual for Job Hunters and Career Changers”, first coined the term over 35 years ago. With the downturn in the economy, job hunting is having a revival and the informational interview is a trick in the trade you may not want to overlook.

First things first, what is it? An informational interview is an interview aimed at gathering information about a job or position at a company of your interest. Most people set out to do these before graduation or when they are considering a job or career change. It is NOT an interview for employment. Think of it as a non-committal conversation starter. The idea is to “feel” out a job – What do you like? What don’t you like? – so that you can integrate your thoughts from this into your career or grad school planning. Typically, 15 – 30 minutes is sufficient time. Remember, this is not a sneaky way to try to get a job; the person interviewing you is genuinely doing it to help you out, so be considerate of their time. With an informational interview, it is all about you, and you are the one asking the questions.

Arranging an Informational Interview

Before you begin calling all the people you admire and sending out your e-mails, it’s important to do your research.  Find the people who are path finders and inspirational to you in your career of choice, research them, see what their network is like through social networking sites like LinkedIn Also, look at your own network. Ask friends, colleagues, family members, relatives, neighbors, anyone who may be able to assist you in finding the right candidate for your informational interview.  HR is usually the one to set up an informational interview, but each company is different. Sometimes it may make sense to contact the person directly. It can even be flattering for them, after all, you have singled them out as a person full of valuable information and in a position you may want to aspire to one day.

There are two options: e-mail or phone call. And thankfully to, here’s an example of how to do one:

click here for part 2 on informational interviews