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Informational Interviewing: Get the Inside Scoop

Why take the time for Informational Interviews? Because many jobs will turn out to be much different than you think.

Meet the Recruiter_1

Take, for example, working in publishing as a magazine editor. Sounds rather fun and glamorous to a lot of people. Well it is, and it isn’t. In this type of position you may get to travel and meet lots of interesting people. You may get to write copy and even articles. You will probably also spend a great deal of time reading and filing information, trying to contact people who are not very receptive and at some publications packing and shipping products back to manufacturers after the photoshoot.

After learning this, working on a magazine may still sound wonderful. But, it may not. The point is you will never really know the daily activities of any job unless to talk to one, or more, people who actually do the work.

Informational Interviewing may sound a bit scary if talking to strangers makes you nervous. If you’re the shy type, try using the P.I.E. method we found in What Color is Your Parachute?

The P.I.E. method for the shy breaks interviewing down to three steps (this will also help you prepare for your real job interviews):

  • Personal interview – this is ten to 15 minutes and can be done with anyone you don’t know. Choose someone who has knowledge of something you’re interested in. As friends and family for a referral. Prepare a few questions in advance and take someone along for support if you like. (Just make sure it’s you, not them, asking the questions.)
  • Informational interview – this is ten to fifteen minutes with someone who has the job you’re interested in. Again, ask friends and family for a referral. Here, be sure to prepare several questions in advance. Be sure to do your research. Don’t waste this opportunity asking for information that’s readily available someplace else.
  • Employment interview – this is as much time as you can get with someone who is able to hire you. Although not everyone agrees on this point, we don’t believe you should use Informational interviews as a guise to meet with someone in a hiring position. Most people will recognize this trick and resent your tactics.

Now you’re ready. You’ve read everything you can about the job and the industry. If you’re lucky, you’ve gotten the names of contacts from family and friends. Maybe you’ve had to find people on your own.

You’ve contacted potential interviewees by letter, followed by a phone call or directly by phone. And they’ve agreed to give you 15 minutes of their time. (While this can be done over the phone or in person, a face-to-face meeting is better if you can arrange it.) The professional outfit you’ll be wearing is clean and pressed. All that’s left is to prepare your questions.

While it’s a good idea to prepare your own questions, you may use the following as a guideline.

  1. How long have you been in this position?
  2. What drew you to this job?
  3. Can you describe your typical day’s activities?
  4. What do you enjoy the most about your work? What do enjoy the least?
  5. What do you find most challenging about this work?
  6. What training or education is required for this position?
  7. What entry level positions are best for learning and growing in this industry?
  8. What are the salary ranges for an entry level position?
  9. How did you get your job?
  10. Looking back, would you still choose this profession? Why? What would you do differently?

About Annette Richmond, MA

Annette Richmond, MA, CARW, CCELW, is a Certified Resume Writer, Certified LinkedIn Profile Writer, and former recruiter. Her career advice has been featured by Huffington Post, The Chicago Tribune, Forbes, Business Insider, Monster, Vault, and WSJ. She helps motivated, senior level professionals tell their unique career story. She also serves as executive editor of career-intelligence.com.


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