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How to prepare and have an effective informational interview

A great way to find out if a particular career path is interesting for you is by having an informational interview. The main difference with a job interview is that then the focus is on you, while the focus of an informational interview is on gathering information, there is no need to sell yourself. In general, the informational interview is held before the job interview, with the purpose of learning the most essential information you will need to decide whether this type of job and company is a match for you. You can expect these kinds of interviews to take 15-30 minutes. By speaking to several professionals you will gain an understanding you would never have got from a job description.

What are the benefits of an informational interview
» First-hand information by a professional
» An honest idea of company culture
» A truthful picture of all the activities of the job
» Insider knowledge for job application in this path
» Initiate a professional relationship, and extend your network

But what kind of questions should you ask during an informational interview? How should you prepare for this? Read on to learn our advice

Before you initiate contact - Practice your pitch
ALWAYS MAKE SURE YOU HAVE YOUR PITCH READY. You need to be able to explain to one and all just who you are and what you want. People have devoted entire books to the elevator pitch, but a few things to bear in mind include: be authentic and talk slowly, keep to the point and don’t let tension stop you from smiling.

Here’s an example:
“Hi My name is Jenny and I am a lab technician, it’s my first job and for the first year I really enjoyed the new challenges, but now I am realising I want more responsibility and I would like more variety in my daily tasks. Most importantly I would like to move from fundamental science to translational science and actually see innovative medicine in action. I studied biomedical sciences with a specialisation in communication and I recently have gotten interested in the career of a clinical research associate. I would love to learn more about it.”

Prepare for the interview
First do a background check and be prepared to ask the individual about career steps that you found surprising, interesting or inspiring. This way you’ll show you are interested in the person and that you have done your homework. It’s a nice way to start the interview. Next prepare some of the following questions.

» What are your daily activities?

» What is a typical day/ week for you?

» What do you like most about your job?

» What do you like least about your job?

» How does this job affect your lifestyle / worklife balance?

» How do you see this job evolving in the next 5 to 10 years?

» What kind of personality and competences are needed to be successful in this field?

» How can I get into this field, what are common entry-level jobs?

» Is there anything YOU would have done differently on this career path?

» Who else would you recommend that I speak to regarding this career path

How do you initiate contact?
Now that you’re prepared you can find professionals to speak to. At BCF Career, we are fans of the informational interview, this is why at every event there are always Q&A Professionals available for you to talk to. When the BCF Career Event is too far away, or the career paths you are interested in are not covered, here are some tips for contacting a person you would like to talk to.

First, always mention how you got their name, it may be through a mutual contact, or maybe from the company website or LinkedIn. Next, say you would like to talk for a few minutes sometime soon, and when that person might be available for a chat, coffee or a phone call. Make sure you explain you are looking for information, and you’re not looking for a job

Don’t forget: make sure you’re prepared to do the informational interview on the spot, as you never know how they’ll reply.

When the interview is over thank them for their time. Make sure you write down what you have learned and don’t forget to follow up with a ‘thank you’ email. After you have spoken to different professionals, compare your notes. I’m sure you’ll find a career path that’s right for you.

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