Info Interview

Six Steps to an Effective Informational Interview

Informational interviews can help you expand your professional network, learn more about an organization, and discover unlisted job openings. To make the most of these connections, be sure to prepare well and follow up appropriately.  

By Phaedra Brotherton

You’ve likely heard that many jobs are found through networking. And one of the most powerful ways to network and get advice for your job search is to conduct informational interviews with people who work in the jobs and organizations of interest to you.

Informational interviews can help you:

  • prepare for a job search or job interview.
  • learn more about a specific job, organization, or mission.
  • make an informed decision about starting a career in the association sector or at a specific organization.
  • get in front of decision makers and become known in organizations of interest.

An informational interview is for gathering information, not asking for a job. But during these meetings, others are learning about your background, and it’s not unusual to learn about unadvertised openings.

Here are six steps that will help you set up informational interviews and get the most out of these meetings.

An informational interview is for gathering information, not asking for a job. But during these meetings, others are learning about your background, and it’s not unusual to learn about unadvertised openings.

  1. Reach out to your network. Your friends and colleagues can often either grant you an informational interview or introduce you to people in your target organizations who are willing to meet with you. The more specifics you can give your colleagues about who you would like to talk to, the better.

  2. Request a meeting. Send a brief email that mentions your mutual acquaintance and briefly explains the type of career information and advice you’re looking for. Make it clear that the meeting is solely for gathering information, and at their convenience. Do not send your resume with this initial contact. If they answer your email with a request for your resume, feel free to send it.

  3. Get prepared. Once you’ve set up the meeting, be prepared to share why you are interested in the type of job the interviewee holds or the organization they work for. Be ready to describe your professional background and experience in one to three sentences. Make sure your resume is up to date so you can share it if requested.

    Next, familiarize yourself with the person you’ll be interviewing and their organization. You can often find basic bio information on LinkedIn, and a quick look at the organization’s website may give you an overview of its mission, activities, and other important facts.


    Finally, think through the type of information this person can share that would be most helpful to you. What can you learn from this person that would be hard for you to learn on your own?

  4. Ask big-picture questions. To build rapport and get the most useful information, focus your questions on trends, insights, advice, resources, and typical assignments, suggests Steve Dalton, author of the 2-Hour Job Search: Using Technology to Get the Right Job Faster. A few examples:
    • What trends are most affecting your industry/members right now?
    • What surprises you most about your organization these days?
    • What resources have you found to be helpful in keeping up to date in this industry?
    • Which projects would you say are the most important in your work?
    • What would you suggest I do right now to prepare to transition into this role?
  5. Ask who else you should speak to. Informational interviews are a great opportunity to expand your network through referrals. If you have someone in mind who you’d like to meet, be prepared to share that information and what you’d like to talk to that person about. Or you can ask your interviewee if they have any recommendations for who else you might meet with. Finally, ask if you can use the interviewee’s name when reaching out to the referral. That way you can contact the referral directly and have control over any follow-up.

  6. Say thank you and keep in touch. Within 24 hours (ideally) of your informational interview, email a thank-you note to the person you interviewed and ask to connect on LinkedIn. If you offered to do something for your new connection, make sure you follow through. Equally important: Offer to be a resource, and keep the person informed of your progress.

Informational interviews can help you make new connections and learn more about an organization or role you’re interested in. The best ones bring other benefits, too—so get some meetings on the calendar and remember to enjoy yourself.  

Learn More

Phaedra Brotherton’s free strategy guide, Fast-Track Your Job Search: How to Use LinkedIn to Secure Informational Interviews in Target Companies, includes templates for reaching out to new connections, sample questions, and other meeting tips..

Certified career coach Phaedra Brotherton, principal of Resumes and Career Strategies, partners with association professionals to help them develop the strategies and tools they need to land a job they’ll love. Contact Phaedra at www.resumesandcareerstrategies.com.

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