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Career Tips for College Grads: What's an Informational Interview?

by Hallie Crawford, MA, CPCC

Maybe you've heard people talk about something called an "informational interview?" Does it sound complicated or vague? If it does, don’t worry, it's just a fancy term for something that smart career seekers do when they want to get their foot in the door of a specific field and find out if it's a match for their skills. Informational interviews involve connecting with someone at a company you'd like to learn more about, and making an appointment to talk about careers at that firm. It's easy to set up, and will give you an instant advantage over other entry-level job seekers so it’s worth doing.

Here’s the deal: An informational interview is different from a regular interview because you're the one who is *mostly* doing the interviewing. If you want yours to go smoothly and if you want to find the answers you seek, then you've got to prepare a set of good questions to ask during the interview. Don't feel shy about asking questions - it's understood that you're new to the field, and that you want to learn all that you can.

Why bother with an informational interview?

  • It's a way to learn what it's really like to work in that field and discover possible career opportunities that exist in that company or at other organizations.

  • It's a chance to get the inside perspective before you jump into that field and accept a job offer you might regret later.

  • It’s an opportunity to get to know someone in that field, make a connection, and possibly land a job in the future.

  • It's a way to find out who else you can network with in your field and begin to establish your professional network.

  • It's an excellent means of practicing your interview skills without the pressure of having to land the job on the spot!

What an informational interview is not:

  • A chance for you to tell someone everything about yourself and talk their ear off.

  • A time to ask for a job right then and there.

  • Permission to slack off or be overly casual or flippant about your career.

Just because this isn't a formal interview doesn't mean you shouldn't treat it seriously. Remember that later on when this person suddenly finds an open slot to fill, you'll want them to remember you and the great impression that you made. You'd be surprised... often, the "resume file" is the first place a company will look when it's time to bring on a new hire.

Know that in your quest for more career information, it's okay to contact a stranger. It's also okay to ask a friend or family member to set aside time to "talk shop" with you and help you find your way. People love to talk about themselves. And if they like their work, they'll enjoy discussing that with you, too. So reach out, be bold... ask for help and information when you need it. Most people are more than willing to help someone learn about their field.

For more tips on informational interviews and how to set one up, read my article, For the Young Career Seeker: How to Set Up an Informational Interview.


Copyright 2008 Hallie Crawford. All rights reserved.

About the Author: 

Help your college grad get on the right track!

Certified Career Coach Hallie Crawford specializes in helping recent college grads and boomerangs identify their ideal career path and make it happen. To schedule a complimentary consultationComplimentary consultation and find out more about Hallie visit http://www.halliecrawford.com or contact her at 877-298-6444.

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