A commonly recommended task in seeking out a new career or job (whether for the first time job-seeker or the transitioning worker) is conducting an informational interview. In this type of interview, the job seeker is the interviewer of the person in a position which interests him/her. Many times the informational interview occurs before the job seeker has settled on his/her next career move.
If you have questions about what an investment banker does on a day to day basis, what education you would need to be competitive for a teaching position at a private elementary school, or if you would enjoy the people you would work with as a registered nurse in a hospital emergency room, then you might consider seeking out an informational interview with someone in that position.
As Richard Bolles (2005), author of What Color is Your Parachute, explains, the informational interview is an attempt to find out “what the work feels like, from the inside” (p.172). Is this just a fancy way of saying “networking”? Actually, no. You would network with people both in a position you desire, but also people capable of hiring you for that position. Rather, the sole purpose of informational interviewing is to gather information to aid in your career/job decision making.
Approaching an informational interview with a hidden networking agenda (or a desire to be considered for a certain position in an organization) is a sure way to ruin both your chance to gather valuable information and your ability to network with that person in the future. The good news about informational interviews is that most people are generally happy to talk about their jobs and share their experiences of how they got to where they are professionally. Here are some examples of questions a job seeker/career-changer might consider asking in an informational interview:
- How did you decide you wanted to do/be _____?
- What does your work day look like? Is that typical of others that you know in your field?
- What do you like most about your job?
- What things do you like least about your job?
- What is one thing you would tell someone interested in going into _____?
A final thing to remember is that an informational interview can be kept relatively short. Try asking for 20 minutes of someone’s time and respect that time restraint when you are talking. You might even offer to provide the list of questions you are planning to ask (again, keep in mind time constraints) so they can have an idea what to expect. Consider an informational interview to clarify your career or job decisions – and enjoy being on the interviewer side of the table before you find yourself on the interviewee side of the table.
(Reposted with permission from http://www.drmelissaaiello.com/blog.html.)
Bolles, R. (2005). What Color is Your Parachute. Berkley, CA: Ten Speed Press.