Informational interviewing is an effective and informal way of getting career information. It is a situation in which you, the job hunter, ask several questions about a career that appeals to you. These questions are directed toward individuals who will know the answers and be able to respond with information, ideas, and suggestions about the career you are interested in.
Informational interviewing is one way to shift the perception that interviewing for a job is being placed in a room with a big spotlight hanging overhead while you are interrogated and deemed either acceptable or not worthy.
Instead, informational interviewing makes it a two-way street. It’s an opportunity for you to get to know the people, culture, and organization to determine if it’s a match for you as well as for them. These interviews also provide you an opportunity to have a casual, open conversation, which you may not receive in a formalized interview process.
Are you wondering if this is this a position where you can see yourself waking up each morning and saying “I can’t wait to begin the day?” Does this role match and reflect my purpose?
Consider these steps when preparing for an informational interview.
Step 1: Review the job description
When you read the description – ask yourself:
“How have I done this in my own career, experiences, and/or education?”
“What do I know about the position?”
“Do I know the individuals that have served in the role? Do I know others in the department? Do I know customers or users of their services?”
Share observations from the job description. You could say, “I reviewed the job description duties and wondered if this accurately reflects the role, or what are some things that aren’t listed in the description that make up a large part of this person’s responsibilities?”
Step 2: Ask questions and be curious
Ask the person what their typical day, week, or month looks like. If vacations and a work/life balance are important to you, then you should find out about the flexibility of the schedule ahead of time. You may find that the department is rigid and this may inform you whether this position is a fit for you.
Ask how others got into their current role. Where did they gain experiences, education, or opportunities that they participated in to help achieve this goal?
Ask about the rewards they receive in the work that they do.
Ask about their frustrations with the field, the department, the organization structure, etc. What are some of the challenges that the department or the person in this type of role faces?
Have there been multiple people in this role? Is this a position that is hard to recruit for?
What’s the steepest learning curve for the people new to the role?
What would they like somebody to bring to this role/ position that hasn’t been done before?
The responses to these questions will provide insight for you to identify and highlight your strengths. You may be inspired to provide suggestions and state “…this is what I do when I’m faced with this situation…” This dialogue provides an opportunity for a conversation.
– Jerri Mizrahi, Boise State Human Resources Leadership, Career, and Personal Success Coach