Number 5, May 2007
THE LOVING TREES NEWSLETTER
Tips for Conducting Informational Interviews
Informational interviews provide one avenue for learning about a business, developing professional relationships and sharing ideas.† We initiate informational interviews as job seekers and researchers to tap into the experience and knowledge of others. As with job interviews, successful informational interviews rely on preparation and practice.† How?
1. Write an interview guide.† This is the single most valuable way to prepare.† Whether 30 minutes in person or 15 minutes by phone, know what you are going to ask to make the most of the time available.† When developing your guide, ask yourself ďWhat do I hope to learn in this interview from this person?Ē† Defining the purpose of the interview helps you order and phrase the questions correctly.
2. Start with general questions and move to specifics. Begin with general questions about the industry, for example, before getting specific about the personís responsibilities.†
3. Learn about the interviewee prior to the interview. Know this personís background and education.† The interviewee is doing you a favor by setting aside time to meet with you; it is your job to be prepared.
4. Do not exceed your requested time.† However, be prepared to stay longer if the person is willing.
5. Dress as if it were an actual job interview. First impressions always matter. Get to your appointment a few minutes early and be courteous to everyone.
6. Ask open-ended questions which promote a discussion.† Listen and guide.† And donít interrupt; you will gather more information and stories.† Like I learned while counseling students in college, the greatest gift is often a sympathetic ear.† Work through the history, and the issues will come out.†
7. Avoid body language that indicates a lack of interest.† This includes folding or crossing arms, slouching, or looking around the room.† Turn off that cell phone and donít check it.† Take notes, and keep the pen moving.
8. Say "thank you." Write a brief note which restates your appreciation for this personís time.† State how the interview helped you move forward in your research or career development.
With informational interviews, consider talking to a range of individuals.† Often the most interesting and insightful information comes from salesmen, administrative staff and customer service technicians.† They have direct customer and product contact and may know where businesses struggle.
The most successful informational interviews are two-way exchanges.† We schedule these interviews for an insider point of view on an industry or firm.† For recent graduates, these interviews provide an opportunity to get your head around what opportunities exist in the workplace and what people actually do day-to-day.† Direct communication with those on the inside gives us insight and a feel for the real issues in a business.
The Loving Trees Newsletter.† Copyright © 2007 Brooks C Mendell.† All rights reserved. We welcome sharing this newsletter in whole or in part if properly cited and attributed.