The power of the ‘informational interview’ when it comes to career success

One of the biggest obstacles when choosing a career path is being able to fully understand what people actually do in their day-to-day job and to what extent it will suit an individual’s personality, strengths and aptitude to do the work. Despite the plethora of online resources, career websites, university open days and career fairs , this insider information is still very difficult to obtain.  This is where the ‘information interview’ can be an absolute game changer.


What is an informational interview


An informational interview is an informal meeting between a person seeking further information about a particular job, career or industry and another person already established in that field of work.   It is different to a ‘job interview’, although in many cases informational interviews can very well lead to job offers if there is a good fit between both parties.


By conducting an informational interview, a student or potential career changer, can find out if the career area that they are interested in actually aligns with their values, skills and interests before taking the plunge and enrolling in a university course.  One of the key benefits of conducting an informational interview is that it provides you with insider information such as; the day-to-day activities in the role, the pros and cons of working in that industry, employment opportunities, the competitive nature of the industry and even career progression opportunities and salary expectations.


Not only is it key to getting accurate and timely information, but the informational interview also represents a golden opportunity to develop a network within your area of interest that you may be able to reach out to in the future should you decide to pursue that particular career path.  


How to organise an informational interview


The first step is to find people willing to meet with you for an informational interview. The best place to start is with your own network, including friends, family, neighbours and even professionals that you may see as a client or customer. For example, if you are interested in exploring physiotherapy as a career, ask your family physio if you can have a 10-15-minute Zoom conversation or if you can buy them a coffee sometime to ask them some specific questions about working in that field. Most people actually really love to help and talk about their career, so you may be surprised how helpful people actually are when it comes to providing you with quality career advice.


Another way to find potential people for an informational interview is by attending industry events, seminars and meet-ups or by reaching out to people through networking sites.


When it comes to actually requesting an informational interview, be upfront and explain exactly what information you’re hoping to obtain from the interview. Make sure that you state clearly what you are expecting of the person and how much of their time you will need. Also, be mindful of people’s time. Requesting a 10- 15-minute chat is a great place to start.


Once you have secured an informational interview


Although an informational interview is not a formal job interview, it may lead to future opportunities so it’s advisable to act in a professional way and prepare adequately for the meeting by putting together a list of specific questions related to the field, role, or company.


The following example questions should give you a good insight into what the role involves and whether it will be a good fit for you.


  1. Can you tell me what an average day / week in your job is like?
  2. What do you like most / least about what you do?
  3. What skills and personality traits do you think are most important in order to be successful in this field?
  4. Were there any surprises for you when you started working in this field?
  5. What advice would you give to someone considering a career in this field?
  6. How difficult is it to get a job in this industry?
  7. What would be the desirable qualifications to obtain an entry-level role?
  8. What sort of career progression is on offer?


After the informational interview


It is always a good idea to send an email or note after the interview to thank the person for their time and insights. You just never know when they may be recruiting in the future or will think of you when they hear about a suitable opportunity.


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