When I started exploring careers outside of academia, my network was thin. That changed after I started scheduling informational interviews with people in careers ranging from, UX, data science, and digital marketing. I slowly began having conversations with folks across different industries and had a better understanding of the world around me.
Informational interviews are a valuable tool to gain insights about people’s career journeys, expand your network, and develop your interviewing skills. The tips below are for making a strong impression on the interviewer and to help build your confidence when you go into formal interviews. In an earlier article, I spoke broadly about tips for networking your way of academia. This article is about being productive and efficient in your informational interviews in a way that the interviewer is impressed with your skill of conducting informational interviews.
I recommend using these for informational interviews, but also for general interview tips. The only difference is the context of the situation.
Interview Tip #1 – Research the person’s background
The point of an informational interview is to learn about the person and for the person you’re interviewing to learn more about you.
Do some research beforehand the interview. People are generally impressed if you can bring up something interesting from their career/work history.
Did they work as a volunteer at an organization in their early career? Ask about their experiences volunteering. Are they a CEO of a company? Explore the thought leadership (blog posts, podcasts, etc) of the CEO to gain a better understanding of the person.
Find out all you can about who you are interviewing. A few places I often check before an informational interview:
- Articles Found Through Google Search
- Medium (do they write any blog articles?)
- Company Website
Interview Tip #2 – Organize Your Thoughts
Do your best to avoid rambling.
While an informational interview is low-stakes, you don’t want to waste their time. The person in an informational interview could help you with a referral or be a helpful resource along the way.
I recommend using a format like I used below to organize your thoughts. You can easily transfer this type of table onto a sheet of paper as well.
Interview Tip #3 – Send a Thank You Note
When in doubt, be thankful.
The person you spoke with took time out of their busy schedules to chat with you.
I recommend sending a thoughtful thank you email and or thoughtful LinkedIn message within 24-48 hours after the informational interview.
Here’s a quick template you can use in your thank-you notes:
Thank You Note Template For An Informational Interview
Dear [Interviewer’s Name],
I wanted to take a moment to thank you for taking the time to speak with me during our informational interview. I truly appreciate the insights you provided about your experiences in [industry/profession/company], and your advice was invaluable as I continue to explore career options in this field.
I was particularly impressed by your [specific accomplishment/project/achievement mentioned in the interview], and your passion for [relevant topic mentioned in the interview] was inspiring. Your advice on [specific aspect of the field/company/profession mentioned in the interview] was extremely helpful, and I look forward to putting it into practice as I move forward in my career.
Again, I appreciate the opportunity to connect with you, and I hope to stay in touch as I continue to learn and grow in this field.
Thank you again for your time and insights.
Sincerely, [Your Name]
After your informational interview is over, it could be only the beginning. Be sure to stay in touch with them for future opportunities.