The Benefits Of Informational Interviews In Your Career
Informational Interviews are an effective yet underutilised means of networking, conducting research, finding highly relevant opportunities and improving your chances of being selected for the job of your dreams.
I strongly believe that networking is important, even when you are not actively searching for a job. We have looked at the benefits of networking before; one of the ways of leveraging your network (or even growing and strengthening it) that I find underutilized, is the Informational Interview.
Informational Interviews, put simply, are conversations where you seek information about a specific opportunity, a company, a field of work, a qualification/certification track - the possibilities are infinite. The difference between an informational interview, and just connecting or reaching out to your network, is that you are seeking information about something specific.
The benefits of informational interviews are many. These fall under three broad categories - Knowledge, Connection and Results
As the name would suggest, the primary objective of informational interviews is adding to your knowledge through conversations with relevant people. Some examples of the kind of information you might seek via informational interviewing are:
Information about a specific job
What is the role about? What is the employer specifically looking for? Why now? Where does it fit in overall organisation? etc. This is very specific and you would get this kind of information from someone who has held that job in the past, or is currently doing the job (or part of the same team), or even the manager who is hiring for that role.
Information about a company and its culture
This is especially useful when you are identifying your dream companies - the places that you would love to work at. Often our initial instincts of the companies we wish to work for come from our interaction with company as a customer and/or from the message that company puts out there. To see whether it would also be a great place to work, we need information from people who are or have worked there. Sometimes this comes from our friends, colleagues and people who are part of our circle. At other times, informational interviews are a great way of getting this information.
Information about a career
Whether you are a new graduate, or someone who after spending a few (or more) years of working, wish to switch careers, one of your biggest questions is likely to be “is this right career for me?”. So if you want to make a switch from software to marketing, you would benefit finding out more about what a career in marketing looks like. An informational interview with someone in your network (or extended network) would probably be the easiest and fastest way to go about doing it.
Networking is all about connecting and staying connected. And Informational Interviews are an easy way of both growing your network and keeping it engaged.
Keeping your existing network
We have seen before that it is important to keep your network actively engaged. This requires effort and also ideas to keep people interested. Many people find it awkward to have meaningless, touch-base conversations. Informational interviews are a very focused and structured way of engaging people in your network.
Growing Your Network
Also, informational interviews can help you learn about other people, not currently in your network, who have useful information or influence that you seek, and also the opportunity to get introduced to these people. It is also a way of getting to know new people and decide if you want a longer term connect with them, if you want them to be part of your network.
Eventually, whether you find informational interviews beneficial or not needs to be evaluated from the results you get from doing them. Some of the results that Informational Interviews make it easier for you to find job or career of your dreams include
- Learn about job opportunities that are not advertised
- Get on the radar of people who may need or be aware of opportunities that matter
- Customize your resume and perform better at job interviews based on information from credible sources
- Improve your chances of being considered for a role by being referred by someone who knows you and is aware of your interest