DO’s and DON’Ts of Informational Interviews

Informational interviews are a great way to network with prospective employers during your job search. If you aren’t quite ready for the job search, that’s OK! Interviews also give you the opportunity to learn about different careers you may be considering. By asking the employer questions about their job, you gain a lot of insight into the day-to-day responsibilities of individuals in various career fields. What do you have to lose? After interviewing an employer, you now have another professional contact. This means it is important to be professional and make a SUPERIOR first impression. Follow these do’s and don’ts from

DO realize that informational interviewing, a subset of networking, is not only an excellent way to explore careers and determine what's right for you, but a surprisingly effective way to maximize the effectiveness of your network if you trying to launch your career or if you are out of work and getting concerned about landing that next job.

DO use the networking process to identify people with whom to conduct informational interviews. Anyone in your network can be either the subject of an informational interview or can suggest others to interview. The ideal subject of an informational interview is someone who is in a job you'd like to have.

DO scrutinize your network for people who would make good informational interview subjects. The best sources for informational interviews for established job-seekers and career-changers include members of professional organizations. If no one in your network fits that description, start asking members of your network to suggest people in the type of job you'd like to be in.

DO decide whether to ask to conduct the interview over the phone, through e-mail, or in person. Face-to-face interviews are by far the most valuable and effective.

DO plan to ask for 20-30 minutes of your prospective interviewee's time.

DO enlist members of your network to help set up informational interviews.

DO write, call, or e-mail your request for the interview. For suggestions on format and wording, see: Scheduling the Informational Interview.

DO research the company before going to the interview. You DON’T have to do quite as much research for an informational interview as you would for a job interview, but some degree of research will greatly enhance the quality of informational interviews.

DO decide if and how you will record information, such as on a small notepad or tape recorder. (Be sure to obtain your interviewee's permission before you tape.)

DO plan to dress for success -- the same way you would for a job interview.

DO plan to update and bring your resume. The interviewee may ask for a copy.

DO consider asking the interviewee to take a look at your resume to see if he or she can offer any suggestions for making the resume a more effective tool for obtaining a job in this field or company.

DO practice with a family member or a career counselor if you aren’t an experienced interviewer.

DO call to confirm your appointment.

DO prepare a list of questions. See a list of 200 suggested informational interview questions.

DON’T go into the interview with any illusions that this is a job interview. You are NOT there to ask for a job. You are there to glean information only. If the interviewee shows interest in you as a job candidate, DO, of course, be receptive if you're interested.

DO arrive on time for the interview.

DON’T forget to greet your interviewee with a moderately firm handshake and a warm, enthusiastic smile.

DO absorb your surroundings; listen and observe keenly.

DO project enthusiasm and show your personality.

DO end the interview when you promised to (though sometimes the interviewee will want to keep talking).

DO ask if you can stay in contact.

DO ask for referrals.

DO ask for the interviewee's business card.

DO thank the interviewee (and do so again later in writing).

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