About information interviews
An information interview is a one-to-one meeting with someone who has a role or career in which you’re interested, they are visits or phone calls to find out what jobs are like. It’s a chance for you to ask questions, gather information about a career field, learn about job options and career paths, and ask people for help to identify opportunities in their fields. One of the best things is that it’s NOT a job interview, so there is less pressure on you and on the interviewee.
What can I get from an information interview?
You can gather important information about a specific organisation and industry. You’ll also get to learn what industries you don’t like, and will meet some really interesting people and gain insider knowledge. You may also get some more contacts that lead to more information meetings. Note the language people use about their job or company, we will use language insights to tailor CV, Cover letter or application to resonate more strongly with the recruiter.
Why would anyone spare the time for me?
Most people will help others and will be happy to talk about their career for a short interview, say 10-15 minutes. They were young once and will have been in your position. Just as it’s a low-risk meeting for you, so it is for them. They know you’re not expecting them to give you a job (because you’ve told them that) so they won’t disappoint you but will, in fact, be sharing their knowledge. Who knows, in a few weeks or months, they may have a job or project for you. And one day, you will do the same for other people – you may already be doing something similar for pupils from your old school, or your friends here.
However, people do not want to waste their time, do sufficient research in advance so that you can be credible, people will get frustrated if you ask basic questions that could be answered by going on their website. This is not a short cut, this is the next step after you have done your diligent research on Google and LinkedIn.
How do I obtain an interview?
Pick out the key people you want to talk to. Sometimes it’s better to go through a ‘warm contact’, someone known to you and to your prospective contact, so that you can say when you contact them ‘your name has been given to me by Ms X, who said you might be able to give me some valuable advice’. That way your contact is more likely to want to help. Ring first, careful word-for-word preparation of your approach can help, or send a CV and cover letter, by email (or even by post), which says you will be ringing later. Make sure you DO ring a few days later and ask for an appointment.
Bear in mind though that information interviews don’t have to be done in person: they could be conducted by telephone, Skype, or even by email.
- Ask for 15 minutes of their time, at any time that suits them, to ask their advice about the work they are doing and how to set about looking for jobs in that field.
- Do NOT ask them for a job or work experience. The conversation is likely to be very short, as this is not good networking etiquette! Technically it isn’t networking at all, but making a speculative application: see our webpage for effective ways to do this.
Questions to ask
The key to a useful information interview is preparation. Your questions could include:
- What is the nature of the work? What actually happens day-to-day?
- How long have you been doing the job? What did you do before? How did your previous experience help you get this job?
- Do employers in this field tend to look for particular qualifications or skills sets? If so, which ones?
- Are there any particular qualities or accomplishments that distinguish those who are promoted from those who are not? What is the future of this field in terms of new and expanding opportunities?
- What satisfactions are available from the work? What are the negative aspects?
- What are some of the principal difficulties the organisation/industry sector faces, and how are they dealing with them?
- Would you mind looking at my CV or LinkedIn profile and offering any suggestions or criticisms that you have?
- Towards the end of the interview, if things have gone well, it may be productive to ask, ‘If someone with my background and interests applied, how would they be viewed by a prospective employer?’
- Could you recommend two more people I could contact for information interviews of the same kind?
Don’t forget to thank them
Immediately write to thank them, tactfully reminding them of anything they promised to do, and once again mentioning your own interests and appropriate skills.
It is worth picking out three or four of your contacts – those who have been particularly helpful or who are particularly influential – and keeping them in touch with your progress, occasionally asking their advice. If you treat them in this way, they will become your supporters, and they will want to further your interests as if they were their own.
Keep in touch
Write to everyone you’ve been in touch with every few months, even those who were of little apparent help, to let them know how you’re getting on. This is especially important once you have the job, since everyone likes being associated with success. Keep building the network.