What is an Informational Interview?
An informational interview refers to a casual conversation between a job applicant and someone who works at a company that they want to be a part of. It is usually the result of a successful networking opportunity, allowing you to learn more about a particular job and company from someone who is already working in the industry.
As a job applicant, it is advantageous to know a bit more about a company. Whether it may be to prepare you for a job interview better or to see if the office culture is suitable for you, knowing more relevant information about what it’s like to work in a particular company can result in having a significant impact on your application.
The informational interview provides information that can also help you determine what opportunities are available. It may be a casual conversation, but if you handle it correctly, you may be one step closer to the job that you want.
How can you arrange an informational interview?
The first way is to reach out to someone you already know. In such a way, it’s easier to set up an interview since both parties are familiar with each other. It can be a former colleague or someone you’ve talked to several times at events.
Another way is to send a cold email through your alumni network or to a contact on LinkedIn. This practice may be less common, but if done correctly, it can enable you to set up an informational interview successfully.
Once you’ve set the date and place for the interview, here are several things to take into account:
Before the informational interview
Since you’re the one who sent an invitation for an informational interview, make sure to come prepared, and that means preparing a list of specific questions about the job and responsibilities involved. You can also ask about the office culture and the industry in general.
During the informational interview
In general, it helps to talk about light topics first to break the ice and make both parties comfortable. Get the ball rolling by asking the interviewee some questions about his or her job at the company. Here are some examples:
- When did you start working at the company?
- What are the projects that you’ve worked on?
- What’s your take about this latest development in the industry?
It is also crucial to talk about yourself and your career goals during an informational interview. Let the interviewer know about your strengths that are suitable for the job that you’re interested in applying for. After that, you can ask questions that offer a closer look at the company. Here are some examples:
- What do you like most about working at the company?
- Why did you choose this company over its competitors?
- What is the most challenging part of working for the company? In this industry?
- With my background and work experience, do you think I will be suitable for a role in this field?
- What advice can you give someone like me who’s looking for a career in this industry?
After the informational interview
The key is to send a thank you note or email for the informational interview within the next day or two. Express your gratitude and appreciation for taking the time to talk to you and provide information about the company. If you know of any job opening that may be suitable for you, you can include that in your email, expressing your interest in that particular job.
If you cannot find any positions that fit your work experience, you can just say something like, “Feel free to send me an email if there’s a career opportunity that you think will be suitable for me.”
A successful informational interview can result in a job referral or recommendation, but don’t worry if the outcome is not what you’ve expected. Job hunting is a process, and with every informational interview, you’re getting closer to landing a job that’s right for you.
Thank you for reading CFI’s guide to an informational interview. CFI offers the Financial Modeling & Valuation Analyst (FMVA)® certification program for those looking to take their careers to the next level. To keep learning and advancing your career, the following resources will be helpful: