Conducting Informational Interviews: The Rest of the Details

[article continued from Part I ]

girl on cel phoneII. CONDUCTING THE INTERVIEW - Initial Discussion

For Cold Calls: (if you don’t know the person or haven’t been introduced)

  • Introduce yourself and why you’re calling. Tell them right off the bat this is NOT a sales call!
  • Ask to set a brief 10 minute appointment for an informational interview. Explain you’re approaching them because it appears to you they have expertise in the area of your interest. In under 10 words, let them know how you chose them – by referral, their website, Linkedin, or another source.
  • Don’t ask for a job from those you’re interviewing for information.  It’s a violation of the trust they gave you by offering to provide unbiased information. Upholding this ethic enables you to gain their trust so they’ll share useful information, ideas and perhaps even opinions or resources.

That way, you’ll have the information you need to approach those who could later offer you a job - or the resources  you are seeking from this this interview.

Jubilant BusinesswomanSURPRISE! Sometimes an informational interview does end up in a job interview. You just shouldn’t expect that or it could taint your interview intention.

I did get a job once from an informational interview when I had no intention of that. I was transitioning into a new industry and wanted basic information on the industry.

I was not the one who brought up the job.  The person I interviewed was just impressed with my knowledge, the questions I asked, how I handled the interview in a comfortable manner so they called later to offer me a job.

That might happen to you, too!

 III.  CONDUCTING THE INTERVIEW - Relevant Questions & Building Rapport

Remember you’re asking questions to gain insight, hidden or “behind the scenes” type information you can’t get from research and that an engaging personality will make it more fun for both of you. (they’re nervous about giving you good answers, too!):

  • I’m curious about “x” topic or job.  I wonder what would you be seeking if you were hiring an “x” at your firm – what qualifications, work experience, skills, background, talents, etc.?


  • What hidden skills or abilities are needed such as; excellent communication or writing skills, IT skills, working calmly under pressure, being a super fast study, or similar?


  • How would you suggest I meet, get current with or find some mentors in “x” [your preferred job or interview topic] 


  • How many days a week [hours a week] do you generally work? Is it different now than when you started? [this gives you a sense of lifestyle]



  • When you thank them at the end, let them know a specific bit of wisdom you particularly appreciated since you’d likely not have learned that without their help [or feel it will help you advance your career or protect you from messing up a job interview or whatever you valued].

That helps them understand whether or not you grasped what they were trying to help you understand. It also reassures them that you really valued their time.

  • If appropriate and you feel you’ve built good rapport, you can ask something along these lines:  “If I were your daughter/son, where would you encourage me to get a job doing “x” ? 
  • “What steps would you suggest I take?”
  • “What would you caution me about?

Get their email address and mailing address at the end. Let them know you want to send a thank you note, and keep them informed of your progress so they know where you’ve landed or how you’re continuing to use the useful information they shared with you.

Only after you build a connection over time, you can share up to 8 bullet points in a note about your key assets or qualifications to let them know you’d welcome referrals if they feel comfortable with that and if it seems appropriate at that juncture.

Use good judgment!  Never send your resume unless they ask for it. It’s critical not to impose on the people who were kind enough to give you their time and knowledge for free.

thank you imageV.   AFTER THE INTERVIEW

  • Email them a thanks immediately, even before you send a thank you card. Ask if they can think of anyone else you should talk to or an event you could attend to meet people in the field? You could invite them to forward you notices of events you might like.


  • plan to send out a short 2 paragraph email bi-monthly to everyone who helped you telling a short story of the help you received (keep names confidential, of course), what you learned, where you’re at now, what you’re hoping for next, or when you land a job. That’s their reward for helping you.
  • But the REAL VALUE is that most great jobs come from insider referrals, and keeping  your connections informed will keep you top-of-mind in case they hear of opportunities for you.
  • Send a follow up thank you note. Very important! Be memorable. Send a hard copy, not just email.



While these steps in Parts I-V are quite thorough, many people prefer help on their first attempt interviewing. You're certainly welcome to contact us for some Individual Advising or hands-on help:
  • Figuring out who to contact,
  • Preparing your questions (or rehearsing them with a live person!),
  • Finessing your resume or the top bullet points to send along,
  • Creating the follow up bi-monthly updates,
  • or any other marketing activity!