Conducting Informational Interviews – Everything You Need to Do This Successfully

girl on cel phoneInformational interviews are my favorite method for learning new topics in-depth  or finding jobs. As the most frequently interviewed career advisor years ago,  I offered information to hundreds of people trying to break into film (my career at the time).  Helping clients with market research,  I now often conduct the interviews. From both sides of the experience,  I offer my “on-the-ground best tips” :


PART I:     Before the Interview: Preparation. What to do and NOT do!

PART II:   Conducting the Interview: Initial Discussion

PART III: During the Interview: Relevant Questions & Building Rapport

PART IV:  Wrapping up the Interview: What You Must Get!

PART V:    After the Interview: Actions Turn into Opportunities! 


Businesswoman Reading PaperworkI.   BEFORE THE INTERVIEW: PREPARATION

  • Consider how you will introduce yourself when you speak to your interview subject. Let them know specifically what you’d like to learn and that you’ll respect their valuable time. Less is more. Succinct introductions are most likely to gain positive results.
  • Prepare your interview questions by thinking through exactly what you want to learn. Do your research. Open with a polite easy question such as “I’m curious about what you love most about your job [your topic of this interview]?”  Then ask exactly what you want to learn, but be open to brief discussions that might digress . Ask clarifying questions, if needed.  Ask your most important questions after your initial opening questions to ensure you don’t run out of time before those are answered.
  • Behavior is critical. Here are a few of the things that caused me to react with less enthusiastic helpfulness. I offer these so you get the most from your subject!


Be on time. Keep the interview to exactly 10 minutes, as you arranged. If it seems they wish to give you more information, check in at the ten minute mark and ask if you can continue for a few minutes longer before just keeping them on the phone.

Be polite and respectful, even if you don’t agree with or like their answers.

Use good judgment and common sense.

Make sure your phone or skype connections are clear. Never waste their time! Try to call from a landline so neither of you struggle to hear the conversation.

Ask concise, clear questions. Vague questions waste time and elicit vague answers.

Be honest. If you refer to a specific rumor or article about their topic or industry, cite your source so they can give a valued opinion on that.

Don’t act like you already know the answers otherwise they’ll feel like they’re wasting their time sharing information with you.

Don’t argue with them if they’re offering their opinion or viewpoint. You can ask why they feel the way they do, but disputing their information will generally cause them to shut down.

Take notes. Don’t interrupt them. Practice typing while someone is talking so you build speed. Capture as much verbatim answer as you can because the nuances of information are indicated in how they answer. That enables you to “read between the lines” intuitively to pick up on intention or meaning that may not be inferred in just the words they use.

Want the Rest of These Free Tips?  

"Conducting Informational Interviews: Parts II-V"

PART II:   Conducting the Interview: Initial Discussion

PART III: During the Interview: Relevant Questions & Building Rapport

PART IV:  Wrapping up the Interview: What You Must Get!

PART V:    After the Interview: Actions Turn into Opportunities! 

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