Honestly, it feels a little bit weird to be talking about career advice and advancement in the middle of a pandemic. With so much uncertainty in the world today it can be difficult to find ways that you can work toward your future and work to advance your career. That's why today I'm excited to be talking about something that you can do right now, from home to advance your career: informational interviews. The best part about informational interviews is that they can be done virtually via phone or video call, and still serve as a great networking tool and a great way to learn about career paths and get your foot in the door. Today's job market is more competitive than ever, and it's time to get creative on how to break in and stand out. Especially for the class of 2020, I hope this guide helps you take a step closer to your dream job! This is part 2 of a 3 part series. You can read part 1 "Why & How to Set Up an Informational Interview" here and part 3 "Conducting a Successful Informational Interview" here!
Last week we talked about what an informational interview is, the benefits of doing them, and how to reach out to set one up (Missed that one? Read it here!). So, now that your informational interview is set up… now what? It’s time to prepare!
When you go into your informational interview you want to present yourself as intelligent, put together, professional, and most of all prepared. This may seem like a lot at first, and your first interview may take some time to prepare for, but I promise you it will quickly become second nature and you’ll be able to knock out preparing for an informational interview in a snap!
Here are the steps you can take for preparing for an informational interview.
Do Your Research Before the Interview
Research the Interviewee
Look up the person who you will be meeting with on LinkedIn. Don’t worry about them knowing that you looked over their profile, it’s expected and encouraged that you do your research before going to meet with them! Learn about where they went to school, their general background and a general idea of what industry/company they started out in. If you have any similarities to the interviewee, make note of those and make sure to mention them when you talk!
Most importantly, check out when they started with their current company and in their current role, and read any description that they have for their current role. Doing this will make sure that you understand what the person’s job is before you meet with them!
Research the Company
Depending on how you were connected with this person, you may not know much about the company that they work for. If that’s the case, make sure to do a little digging into the company before you meet. What sort of work does the company do? What is something the company has produced recently that impresses you? How does the role of the person you’re interviewing connect with the company’s mission?
Related Post: How to Be a Standout Intern
Prepare Your Questions for the Informational Interview
Prepare what you’re going to ask in the informational interview!
Personally I like to have a few “go to” questions ready under my belt to begin the conversion and pick it back up whenever there’s a lull.
Some of my favorite questions to be ready with:
- Can you tell me a little bit about what you do, in your own words?
- Have you always been in this industry? If not, what did you do before this? (You should already know the answer from your research, but this is a great way to get the conversation flowing!)
- What is your favorite part about your current role/favorite project that you’ve worked on?
- What is your least favorite part about what you do?
- How did you get involved in this company/industry?
- What drew you to this job?
- (Save this one for 2nd to last!) Now that you know a little bit about me, do you have any advice for someone in my position?
- (Ask this one last!) It was wonderful to meet you, is there anyone who you recommend that I reach out to next?
Outside of my prepared questions, I prefer to tailor my follow-up questions based on what else we have discussed in the interview. Only preparing a handful of questions allows me to have to think on my feet and get creative with questions in the moment, helping the interview flow more like a conversation!
However, if you’re feeling nervous it’s always better to over prepare more questions to ask.
Learn More about Informational Interviews
Interested in learning more about informationals? Check out this episode of The Quarter Life Crisis Club Podcast, where Sara and I share our experiences being on both sides of the informational interview process!
Prepare Your Answers
Wait, I need answers? I thought I was the one interviewing them!
Yep – you’ll need to prepare your answers as well! That’s the beauty of informational interviews, not only do you get to learn about the person that you’re interviewing but they will also learn about you.
Why is that important? It’s your time to shine. To impress them. To help these people who are in the positions that you want to be in, and with fantastic connections, to learn about you.
Let’s take a step back and look at a few of the reasons to do an informational interview:
- Start a professional relationship/network
- You wouldn’t consider someone a professional connection if you didn’t know anything about them!
- Potentially receive a referral to a future job at that company or in that career field
- If someone is going to refer you for a job, they’ll need to know about you first!
- Get advice on what the next step in your career path should be
- They’ll need to know about what you do right now, what your interests are, and what your future goals are in order to give you advice!
Some questions to be prepared to answer:
Get ready to answer questions similar to these in your informational!
- Tell me about yourself
- The big one! This will be asked so many times in your professional career, preparing your answer to this will help you in the future a ton.
- Pro tip: if they don’t ask it, work your answer into the conversation anyway! You want this connection to get to know you!
- What do you want to do next in your career?
- Be honest here, even if you don’t know! My answer to this is typically “I’m not sure exactly, which is why I wanted to meet with you! I know I’m interested in marketing within the entertainment industry but I’m not sure specifically what path within that. I’d love to hear your thoughts!”
Those are the steps I follow when preparing for an informational interview!
Learn More About Informational Interviews
Ready to master everything you need to know about informational interviews? Check out these other posts for more tips!