Informational Interviews

The purpose of an informational interview is to gain information about the specific position of interest, the firm/company and the industry. Informational interviewing is really about “relationship-building.”

For Recruiting
One of the keys to breaking into the recruiting field is to conduct informational interviews. The goal of informational interviews is to truly understand what a recruiter does and thereby gather information and gain an “insider’s” view.

Informational interviews can be extremely helpful in providing you with key information as you position yourself for a career in recruitment. By conducting informational interviews with those already in the field, you will be able to gather information to help you better understand the responsibilities and skills necessary. You may also learn of other kinds of opportunities in this field and learn more about what kind of candidate is successful in this job.

Your Strategy
Before your informational interview, make sure you know your networking strategy. What kind of information are you looking for? How can this contact be helpful to you? Do your homework and research the person and firm you will be speaking with. Think about WHY you want to be in this field/job/industry. Above all, be prepared! Have specific questions prepared in advance.

Initial Contact
When you contact a person for an informational interview, the key is to build trust and establish a rapport right away. Make sure to return their phone calls promptly and arrive on time for your meeting. Do not cancel on them or reschedule. These are all indicators that you are the type of professional who can be counted on. Remember, you are not asking for a “job.” Your goal should be to ask for a meeting where you can gain more information about what THEY do and how THEY gained entry into this field/position. If they are not available to meet with you, ask them for the names of one or two contacts that they believe may be helpful to you.

Sample Dialogue for Initiating an Informational Interview
“Thank you again for taking the time to see me today. I am very interested in transitioning into the recruitment field. I know what I do well & what I enjoy doing. I am trying to benefit from the counsel of individuals, such as yourself who has a great deal of experience in this area. I am particularly interested in your insights and advice and learning more about the necessary skills and responsibilities of this field.
The key is to communicate that you know your strengths Ð the contact does not want to be wasting their time talking to you if you do not know why you are there.

Sample Questions for Informational Interviewing (the Field/Area)

  • “Describe a typical day for you at work.”
  • “What do you like most about your job?”
  • “How did you get into this field?”
  • “What is the best education/training for your job?”
  • “What industry publications do you recommend?”
  • “What are the professional organizations in your industry?”
  • “If you could start all over again in your career, what steps would you take? What would you avoid?”
  • “If your department received a large grant, how would the money be allocated?” (This question will clue you in on the needs/gaps that need to be filled).
  • “What are the major areas of growth in your industry?”
  • “What are the major issues/challenges facing your industry today?”
  • “What might be the best way to approach prospective employers?”
  • “Is there anyone else you recommend I speak with in your field? May I use your name?”
  • “What are normal salary ranges for an entry level position in this field?”

Sample Dialogue for Closing an Informational Interview
“Thank you so much for your assistance. I have learned a great deal today. Your advice will certainly help me give my job search better direction. Is there anyone else you can recommend I speak with who might be willing to meet with me as you have today? Thank you again.”

If the interview is by phone:

“Thank you again, and would it be alright if I sent you a copy of my resume for constructive criticism?”

Following Up
Send thank you notes to the person you spoke with/met with and to the person who recommended this professional. Make sure to send a thank you within one or two days after your meeting. In your note, ask if you can ever be of assistance to them in the future. Be a resource to them as well.

Sample Questions About Your Resume (once they have received it)

  • “Is this an appropriate type of resume for recruitment/HR positions we have discussed?”
  • “What do you see as possible weak areas that could be improved on my resume?”
  • “What about the paper, length, color, layout & type; are they appropriate for this field?”
  • “How might I improve the form and content of the resume?”

In Conclusion
The key to successful informational interviewing is that it is an active and routine prospecting campaign. The more contacts you make, the more useful information, advice and job leads you will receive. Prospecting is conducted by means of letters, telephone calls, and face-to-face meetings. So make sure that a large portion of your conducting informational interviews is devoted to this activity. Once you land your ideal job, make sure to let those who helped you know where you landed.

Copyright Wisnik Career Enterprises, Inc. You may reproduce this article for non-sale use with the company’s permission.