Posted by: lorihowell | November 25, 2013

The Informational Interview

Have you employed the informational interview—a brief conversation to learn more about a topic or industry—in your job hunt? I have found it very helpful to talk to people with expertise when I’m looking for a job. It can also help you connect with a good work culture when you personalize the job hunt this way.

To supplement the interview tips in chapter 8 of our textbook, Strategic Communication, O’Hair, Friedrich and Dixon (2011), I’ll outline a few informational interview tips that I’ve received along the way.

1. During your initial outreach, call on people in the your field of interest who know and trust your work. It will be easier for you to connect with people who have some history with you, so reach out to them first.

2. Be respectful of a person’s time. If you invited someone to a 30-minute coffee, begin wrapping up the discussion 20 minutes in. Suggest a time-check by saying, “I promised I’d only keep you for 30 minutes and we’re nearing that time.”

3. Wrap up the interview with the question, “Who else should I talk to?” Your interviewee is expecting you to make an “ask”, whether a recommendation or names of additional colleagues. Try not to leave the interview without the names of two additional people you can contact.

Hopefully these tips will lead you to great opportunities and keep you in good graces with the people you interview. What suggestions would you add?


  1. I’d like to suggest implementing the concept of “goal setting” as discussed in Chapter 8 of Strategic Communication, O’Hair, Friedrich and Dixon (2011). O’Hair et al. suggests that “goal setting brings the purpose into focus, and the purpose then shapes the relationship between the interviewer and interviewee” (p. 213). Setting goals prior to the interview can help you understand and decide what you hope to achieve from the meeting. While keeping your goals in mind, you can then think of strategic questions to ask the interviewer that will help your time with them be more of a success. Without a clear goal of what you hope to obtain from the interview, you might come unprepared and forget to ask important questions.

    Informational interviews seem to be a good way to obtain information about a specific job that you’re potentially interested in. The concept seems especially helpful if you are thinking about making a career or industry change. Personally, I have never conducted or requested an informational interview. I wonder how many informational interviews have turned into actual job opportunities. Have you ever heard of anyone obtaining a new job from an informational interview? Has anyone ever changed his or her mind about a potential career after a information interview?

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