Informational Interviews: Not Just For Rookies

A common misconception is that informational interviews are only for folks starting out in their career. Sure informational interviews are a great idea for the new college grad, but they can be game-changing later in your career as well. Two of the best executive roles I’ve had came from such informational interviews, and eventually the real interviews once a job was available.

I used this technique to move to a completely new side of the business, from Verizon to Verizon Wireless and establish an entirely new network (pun intended).

Of course I didn’t call them that. If you’re more established in your career, I’d avoid the term informational interview, but a rose by any other name…

In my case I just reached out via email with a short summary and my resume attached. I shared a bit of my background (with enough of an elevator speech to get them to open attached resume.). I indicated I would be in “the neighborhood (e.g. the same state)” and asked if I could swing by to introduce myself. It was important to say that I was perfectly happy in my current role (which was close enough to the truth to still go to church on Sunday), but just looking for career guidance and future possibilities.

Each of these introductions inevitably led me to ask the question: who else should I talk with?  That question led to more such informational interviews, a ride along, and an invitation to attend a local charity even dinner with the VP (which felt like a 4 hour interview). It takes time, so you can’t be in a rush. One job surfaced 9 months later, another took two years to bake, but involved a promotion. Both were worth the effort.

Tips For Conducting a Great Informational Interview

  1. Remember this is your dime, be prepared to lead the conversation
  2. Have intelligent questions prepared
  3. Listen more than you talk
  4. Be actively interested and take notes
  5. Have a strong elevator speech ready
  6. Don’t over-sell or ask for a job
  7. Share enough of yourself to leave them intrigued and remembering you

A Few Good Questions

  • What’s the best part of working in this areaof the business?
  • Who is the best at this role? What makes them exceptional? (those names are great people to follow-up with)
  • Who else would you recommend I talk with to gain additional perspective?
  • When you look at my current background, what’s missing to best prepare me for a job here? What additional experience would be helpful?
  • If a job were open in your department, what reservations would you have about considering me
  • Is there someone I could shadow to get to know more about this role?