What is an informational interview?
An informational interview is an in-person or phone conversation that serves many purposes. It is a research method that helps you increase your knowledge about the political area and gives you information about the field you may not know. It helps you find the right job, build a professional network and market yourself. It is not an interview, but a time to obtain information and gain contacts.
How do you request one?
Request an informational interview in writing. Always attach your resume.
- 1st Paragraph: Introduce yourself and explain how you were referred to them. State why you are writing and indicate that you are requesting an informational interview.
- 2nd Paragraph: Outline what you’d like to talk to them about and any particular questions.
- 3rd Paragraph: State your availability and ask what is convenient for them. Give options on date/time/location.
- Type your name and contact info and attach your resume.
Checklist for the interview:
- Dress to impress. You may not need to wear a suit, but you should look very professional. Be on time!
- Be friendly. Spend some time chatting about common interests, background, who referred you, etc.
- Set the agenda. Lay out what you want to talk about in the 30 minutes. Be specific - state why are you talking to them in particular.
- Be prepared with your elevator pitch. Be prepared to give a brief summary of your background, skills and interests and what you are now looking for.
- Ask questions. Open ended questions are great, ask them about themselves and how they got to where they are. Don’t forget, people like to talk about themselves.
- Ask for referrals. People know that you’re meeting them to expand your network. Politely ask if there are others you might talk with to hear more about something. Tell them you’ll follow up with them on this.
- Ask for a business card. Thank them at the end and ask them for their card so you can follow up.
- Send a thank you note. By email and snail mail. It’s the best way to keep you in their minds and make them feel like helping you.
Potential Questions for the Interview:
- What is a typical day or week for someone with X sort of position in X sort of field/organization?
- What kind of background is necessary for this sort of area/position?
- What advice can you give me as to how I should best prepare or look for a job in X organization/area?
- What are the frustrations and drawbacks of X position or X organization or X field?
- What kinds of positions do people normally end up in 5/10/20 years down the line after a certain kind of position?
- What are the hours and schedule like?
- What is a typical salary for someone in X position or field?
- Any advice on developing new job leads?
- Do you know any other great people such as yourself who might be good for me to talk with?
Do’s & Don’ts:
DO as much research ahead of time on the person, field, organization, issues, etc. as you can.
DO bring a few resumes to the meeting and give them one when you wrap up.
DO re-attach your resume & remind them of who they said they’d introduce you to in your follow up email.
DO assert confident body language, look them in the eye, shake their hand in the beginning and at the end.
DON’T ask for a job. Or start with asking how they can help you.
DON’T forget to send a thank you email and note the day of the interview.