Job Search Tips

How to do informational interviews (step by step)

July 1, 2020

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Prefer to read? The transcript is below 🙂

Hi, it’s me – Iris. In case you’re new to my channel, thank you so much for popping by and welcome! In case you’ve been here before, welcome back. 

Please say hello in the comments. I might be talking to a camera here,, but in my mind, I’m talking to you – yes you. So why not talk back to me, I’d really love that. 

Anyways…. In this video, I’m going to explain, step-by-step, how to set up and have an informational interview. 

But before I do that, you know what to do: hit that thumbs up button if you like this video and subscribe to my channel if you want to be the first to hear when I post new videos, all to help you find your passion, and make it your work – because that’s what I’m here for. 

Alright, let’s get to it! 


how to do informational interviews step by step tutorial - career change advice

So, first things first – let me quickly explain what an informational interview is and why they’re so important. 

An informational interview is an informal meeting with the main goal of learning more about a desired career path, company or industry. 

So, it’s a conversation with someone who works in a field or at a company that you’re interested in, and you’re trying to gain a better understanding of what it’s like to do that job or work at that company, what the culture is like, what people they work with, what skills are necessary or valued, and if it’d be a good fit for you. 

Now, if you’ve watched some of my previous videos, you’ll have noticed that I bang on about these informational interviews. 

That’s for a variety of reasons:

  1. It’s really hard to know if you’re going to like a job or a company – it’s something I hear often from the people I work with. They often wonder… what if I take the job, but don’t like it? What if I don’t like the culture or the people I’ll be working with?

    Informational interviews give you a chance to get a better feeling for this, and take away that guesswork.

  2. Informational interviews can give you valuable insights that you’d otherwise never had known, and it can help you to connect the dots.

    For example, maybe you know that you’d love to do something with innovation, customer research and apps, but you haven’t got a clue what kind of jobs let you combine those things.

    So you go to LinkedIn, search for people with ‘innovation’ in their job title, do a bit of research and homework, reach out to them, ask for an informational interview and through these meetings you find out that working in the marketing strategy team of a small tech startup covers all those things – something you’d never had figured out by simply doing desk research or self-reflection. 

  3. Informational interviews can help you build valuable relationships to help you find a job.

    I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: companies prefer to hire people they already know or through referrals, so start having those conversations with people who work at companies you’d love to work for or who work in the industry that you’d like to move in to.

    If you want to understand a bit better how to find a job through networking, and how to build those relationships, check out this video

  4. Informational interviews can help you prepare for a job application or job interview.

    By speaking with people who work in the field that you’d like to work in, or at a company that you’d like to work for, or even do the kind of job that you’d like to do, you can get insider information about what it takes to succeed.

    You can get a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities, and what they’d be looking for in an ideal candidate for the job that you’re after. 

Okay, now you know what an informational interview is, and why they’re so important, let me tell you exactly how to set them up, and how to do them well. 

Step 1: research

Those of you who like making lists, eat your heart out, because the first thing to do is make a list.

Before you do anything else, have a think about what organisations you’d love to work for, what types of roles or career paths you’re interested in, or what subject matters you’re drawn to. 

Write that down. 

Then, hop on to LinkedIn and find people who either work at the organisations you’d love to work for, do the types of roles that you’re interested in, work in the field, sector or subject matter that you’re drawn to. 

These could be first degree connections, second degree connections, or third degree connections. 

Check out their profiles, and pick the 3 – 5 people that stand out the most for you, and that you’d genuinely like to speak with.

Then, ask yourself: what would I love to find out from this person? What would I like to learn? What would I like to ask them. Write down 4 – 5 questions. 

Here are a few examples: 

  • What’s it like to work for company X, what’s the culture like? 

  • What’s the most exciting project you’re working on right now? 

  • What kind of people are most successful or thrive here, what do they have in common? 

  • How did you land your job? 

  • What advice would you give me, if I wanted to work here or in this industry? 

Step 2: connect

Okay, so it’s time to reach out to them. You can send them a message directly on LinkedIn, but a lot of people don’t check their LinkedIn regularly, so it might be better to send them an email directly. You can use an email finder service like hunter.io or snov.io to find their email addresses. 

Keep your message brief and to the point, 2 – 3 paragraphs max. 

In your message, introduce yourself, explain why you’d like to speak with them (and not someone else), and ask if they’d be willing to have a 20 – 30 minute chat with you. 

Your tone of voice would depend on the person you’re reaching out to, and the company they work for, or the industry they work in. For example, an email to someone working at a reputable private equity company would probably sound a bit more formal than an email to someone working at a food startup. 

Now, there’s a good chance that they won’t respond to your initial email – don’t take it personally and don’t let it stop you! Please make sure you follow up by sending a gentle reminder roughly a week after you’ve sent your initial email, and then again roughly another week later if they’ve still not responded. If they don’t get back to you after you’ve followed up twice, it’s time to move on.  

Step 3: prepare for the informational interview

Okay, so you’ve received a response, and have set up the meeting. Now it’s time to prepare. 

Do a bit of desk research to learn more about them.

How long have they been in their current role? How long have they worked for the company? What have they done before this in their career? What kind of things do they care about? What kind of causes do they support? What kind of things have they shared or written on LinkedIn? 

Then, do a bit of research about the company they work for and the industry they work in.

What has the company shared on LinkedIn? Has it been in the news lately? Or has it received press coverage? What developments or trends are shaping or disrupting the industry?

You don’t need to become an expert about the company or industry, but it’s good practise to have a basic understanding of what’s going on in the field. 

The next thing you want to do is have a look at the questions you’d like to ask them – you should’ve already written down 4 or 5 questions. Add 4 or 5 more, so if you have some extra time to ask more questions, you’re prepared for that too. 

Step 4: have the informational interview

So, the time has come. It’s time for the meeting. Here are the most important things to do. 

Be on time
I almost feel like this needless to say, but I want to say it anyhow. Make sure you’re on time for the meeting. It’s disrespectful to show up late when you’ve asked for someone else’s time. Just don’t do it. 

Take the lead
You’ve requested this meeting, so it’s your job to lead the conversation. Start off by showing your appreciation or gratitude for their time and willingness to chat with you. Saying something like “thank you for meeting with me, I really appreciate it” goes a long way. Then briefly explain why you wanted to speak with them, and what you were hoping to get out of the conversation. 

You could say something like: “I’ve been working in X for the past 10 years, and I’m exploring the next step in my career. I’ve been thinking about something in Y (which is what they do), so I was really curious about your experience, and I hope that speaking with you will help me better understand if it would be a good fit for me”

Then, start by asking your first question. 

Stick to the time.
After ~20 minutes, say “I don’t want to keep you for too long, and see we’ve already been speaking for 20 minutes. Could I ask you one more question?” 

This shows you respect their time, and subtly puts the ball in their court. If they have a busy day, and need to get back to work, they’ll take the opportunity to wrap up the meeting, but if they have some extra time, they might say “oh, it’s okay, I have an extra 10 minutes”. 

It’s a nice little trick to buy yourself a bit of extra time, without imposing anything. 

Always ask for a connection
You always, always, always want to finish the conversation by asking if, based on the chat you’ve had, they know of anyone that you should speak with. 

They might know someone who could tell you more about XYZ, or maybe they even know someone who’s in a position to hire, and they could introduce you to them. 

Alright, moving on to the final step of the process. 

Step 5: follow-up

This is just as important as the actual meeting itself, if not more important, but a lot of people fail to follow up properly and instead of continuing to build a relationship, they let it be a one-of conversation. 

So, pay attention. 

Within 24 hours of having the meeting, send a short message to thank them for their time and follow up with any things you said you’d do.

So, if you said you’d connect them with someone, tell them that you’ll quickly talk to that person first, and will make the introduction shortly after. 

Then, sometime between 1 – 4 weeks later, send another short message, and – if you can – help them with something.

You could share an article, book or podcast that they might be interested in. For example, they might have shared that they’re focused on helping women of colour succeed in the corporate world, and 2 weeks after you’ve had the meeting with them, someone you know shares an article about this on LinkedIn. You could share that with them, and say, ‘saw this article, thought of you and the conversation that we had – thought it might be of interest to you’.

Then again, 2 – 4 weeks later, send them another short message.

If they’ve introduced you to someone within their network, and you’ve had a meeting with that person, tell them that you’ve had that meeting, and how helpful it was. Or, you could share what piece of advice that they shared with you has been most helpful. And, obviously, if you can help them, do something for them, even better – even if that’s just sharing another article, book or podcast that they might be interested in. 

Alright, there you have it: the 5 steps of setting up and doing an informational interview. I hope this was helpful!

That’s it for today. If you liked this video, please hit that thumbs up button. It tells me exactly what kind of videos you’re finding helpful and it really does make a difference to help me grow my YouTube channel. 

Thanks for watching, and I’ll see you next week!

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