Informational interviews are an effective way to learn about a company, find out about future opportunities, and form a connection with someone who works there.
Since you’re the one who actually asked for the conversation, the tables are turned a bit in an informational interview.
You may be expected to lead the conversation much more than you would in a traditional interview. Why? Because the person on the other end is not considering you for an open job (yet!) and is essentially lending their time to help you learn.
Here are 4 things you should prepare for an informational interview:
1. Your elevator pitch
The first thing your interviewer is going to ask you is “tell me about yourself”. If you’re approaching graduation like Helena they might even say “Tell me a bit about yourself and what you’re looking to do post-graduation”.
This is your opportunity to share your elevator pitch, “career story”, or whatever else you want to call it. I recommend following the structure detailed in this article.
In an informational interview, I think it’s good to add into your pitch that one of your goals for the future is to work for the company you’re speaking with… otherwise, why would you be there!?
2. What type of role you see yourself in
Since the conversation is not about a specific job, it’s impossible to cater your response to one. However, you should have a few ideas of what functional areas you’d like to work in and why you’d be good at them. Saying “I will do anything at this company” doesn’t do you any favors.
Remember that there will always 10 people behind you who know what they want to do, why they want to do it, and why they’d be good at it. That’s who you’re competing with down the road when jobs open up.
3. Why you want to work for the company
Assuming you do want to work at the company one day, it’s important to know why. Do your research on the company and be able to explain why you want to be there versus at one of their competitors.
Do your values align with their mission? Do you love their product or feel their services are impressive? Do you admire their founders/leaders or their company culture?
Most companies try to talk about what makes them unique on their website, either on the about page or the careers page. Some even take it a step further and have video interviews with employees, an office tour, and more.
Doing your research on the company will allow you to explain why you bothered to set up the informational interview, but also enable you to have an intelligent conversation about their job and the business.
Questions for your interviewer
After you share information about yourself and your interviewer does the same, it’s going to be on you to ask questions. Preparing questions ahead of time that are insightful and impressive is one of the most important ways to prepare.
My biggest tip is to not ask anything that can easily be found online. Do that research ahead of time, and then ask questions that build on what you learned. You can also ask questions that require the perspective of the person you’re interviewing with or questions about their own career path.
I’m going to list a handful of sample informational questions below, which you can pick and choose from. However, there is one question you should always ask in an informational interview:
What is the best way to find out about and express interest in opportunities at this company?
Every company is a bit different and hearing the best approach directly from an employee will go a long way. I even find that most of the time people will offer to pass your resume along when you find a job of interest.
Here are some other questions that are good ones to ask:
- Questions about the interviewer:
- What do you do here at the company?
- Why did you decide to come work here?
- What do you like about working here/what are the challenges
- Questions about the company:
- What are the main goals of the company over the next [x years]?
- What is the company culture like?
- What type of people are successful here/what qualities do they have?
- Questions about how to get a job (or express interest in one):
- I saw X job on the company website and was planning to apply for it. Do you have any advice or information on that role?
- What is the best way to find out about upcoming opportunities?
- What is the best way to express interest in them?
- What is the best way to keep in touch with you?
- Additional questions customized to you:
- Incorporate the research you’ve done on the company and ask something that builds on it – i.e. “I read that… Can you tell me a bit more about how that effects the x team?”
- Incorporate what you know about the interviewer / any common connections
- Ask questions to lead the conversation in a direction where you can show off your strengths
Good luck in your next informational interview!