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The Information Interview: Tips for Success


What is an information interview?

An information interview is a tool used to gather information on a specific organization, career path or occupation. It involves connecting with individuals who are currently working in this area to gain an understanding of its expectations and requirements. This will help determine whether this area is a realistic fit based on your goals. The information interview can be conducted in a variety of methods including via telephone, in person or via video chat mechanisms. The article will provide you with best practices and suggestions for conducting an information interview.

1. Is an information interview worth the investment of my time? If you are still not convinced on the amount of benefit that can be gained through an information interview, here are some additional add-value items:

  • Excellent method to compile information that is customized to your needs as you can ask and cater your own questions.
  • Opportunity to build and develop your network for both current and potential future opportunities.
  • Build your existing knowledge on the field/opportunity, develop lingo and understand current trends (invaluable for an interview with an employer).
  • Realistic preview of the role.
  • Provides you with a chance to build and enhance your interviewing skills.

2. Who should I be conducting an information interview with? The best way to get started is through identifying contacts for an Information Interview:

  • Begin this process is through identifying the contacts that you already possess. Review your personal connections and networks via family, friends and on social media channels including LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc.
  • You do not need to necessarily connect with your immediate circle however they may have connections that fit your field or occupation of interest. Reach out to them and see whether they have any connections that might be of interest.
  • LinkedIn provides you an opportunity to see mutual connections. If you have any mutual connections, this would be a great time to connect with them and request an introduction to this.
  • If you are a post graduate student, find out whether there are Alumni Societies that you can be connected with.
  • Contact business, professional or industry associations to see if someone is available to speak with you or if you can attend any of their events.
  • This is a great tactic to enable you to make connections in the industry and areas you are looking to further your career in.

3. How can I ask this contact for an Information Interview?

  • In the case where you have a mutual connection, I would request for them to do the initial introduction via email or via LinkedIn providing a brief overview of the reason for introduction. This will open up the door and add credibility for the basis of this introduction.
  • In a case where you have sought out this connection yourself, I recommend using a professional channel such as LinkedIn or email whenever you have the opportunity to do so as Facebook is more for personal use.
  • Briefly introduce yourself including your name, whether your currently employed or a student, your background, career interests or goals as well as where you found their contact information.
  • Be clear that you are solely looking for information and not for a job. Whenever possible, demonstrate that you have researched into the field and that you are just looking to gain further information.
  • Suggest a variety of time frames for availability and provide both an in person and over the phone option. Chances are the person you are connecting with is quite busy and you want to be respectful of their availability as they are making time to help you. Remain mindful of this.
  • If meeting in person, ensure that you are accommodating their location as they are taking time out of their own personal schedule to meet with you.

4. What questions should I ask during the Information Interview?

  • Be mindful of the set time you have arranged for the information interview and to stay within this time frame. You will likely find that you have time for no more than 5-10 questions. Select the most applicable ones and place them in priority order. Typical interview questions include:
    a) How did you get started in this position?
    b) What made you decide on this career?
    c) What education, courses or training do you feel best prepared you for this field?
    d) What do you enjoy the most and least about your current position?
    e) Are there any resources that you think would be beneficial for me to review or look into?  (industry associations, websites, blogs, courses)
    f) Are there currently any existing trends or changes you see happening right now in this area?
    g) What are your short and long term projections of this field?
    h) Are there any other professionals within this field that you would recommend I connect with? May I use your name when contacting them?

5. Should I connect with them again after the information interview?
You should definitely reach out again to thank them for their time. You want to leave a positive impression and thank them for creating time as they most likely are a busy professional. You want to recognize and appreciate this.
Immediately after the interview (generally within 24 hours), send a thank you email for their time. In addition to this, some individuals mail or leave a thank you note with reception (some add gift cards but I leave this up to you as it not always necessary).

For your own personal records, I recommend that you create a template of questions that you would like to add and customize it depending on who you are meeting with. By having a template, this often requires minor tweaks. Also keep a record of the questions and responses received for reach interview.  Some people track using excel spreadsheets of who they interviewed, their role, employer’s name and email address.

Lastly, you want to ensure that you are gaining benefit from these interviews through using applicable suggestions providing such as reading a blog, connecting with another professional they recommended, looking into a course. Ultimately you are responsible for auctioning the items provided and you want to maximize the most out of these opportunities.

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