Get an Inside Look With Informational Interviews

By Robert Half April 12, 2016 at 5:30pm

Informational interviews are a great way to get the answers to questions you might have in your job search. Maybe you just graduated with a degree in finance, but you’re not quite sure which area you want to work in. Or you already have an accounting job, but you're looking to forge a new career path. Chances are you have plenty of questions.

Asking experienced professionals who have specialized expertise about their role and what it involves can give you real-world insights.

It can also build relationships and open doors that could lead to a job. Eighty-four percent of CFOs in a recent Accountemps study said they were likely to alert someone who impressed them in an informational interview of new job openings.

Read more about informational interviews in our survey of more than 2,200 CFOs, shown in the infographic, below.

Here are some tips to help you with this classic networking tactic and get the most out of an informational interview.

First, land the informational interview

Before you approach anyone, research the fields and positions you’re most interested in, and make a list of job titles and specific companies you’d like to check out. Then reach out to your network — both online and off — to look for connections: Maybe you have a LinkedIn contact who works in the field you're interested in, or perhaps your college roommate’s brother is employed at an organization you admire.

Approach each contact separately; don’t send a mass email. Personalize your message to each potential interviewee and let them know why you’d like to chat with them for 20 or 30 minutes. Finally, make it clear that you’re not asking for a job, but rather that you're looking for information to help you decide what kind of job you want.

Looking for a job? Accountemps can help you find a new opportunity.

Then prepare your questions

Unlike a job interview, where you need to answer questions, you'll need to prepare a list of questions for the informational interview. Avoid yes or no questions; instead, go for those likely to lead to long, detailed responses, such as these:

  • How did you get your start in this career?
  • What’s your favorite part of your job? Least favorite?
  • What skills do you use the most?
  • What’s a typical day like?
  • Are any trends emerging that you think might affect your job and/or the industry?
  • If you could go back and give yourself a piece of advice on your first day at your job, what would it be?

Also, try to include a few customized questions based on the company research you did on the professional’s company and position. For example, you might ask about a recent project, a high-profile client or conferences that have been especially useful.

Consider details, such as your wardrobe

Follow the same basic rules for informational interviews as you would for job interviews: Dress professionally and conservatively, arrive early, and be sure to maintain eye contact when others are speaking to you.

And finally, don't forget to follow up

After the meeting, follow up with a thank-you note, and connect with the person on your social networks if you haven’t already.

Then pat yourself on the back for completing this fact-finding, relationship-building mission. It's not always easy to put yourself out there — but you never know where your efforts will lead you.

Informational interviews infographic

INFORMATIONAL INTERVIEWS

The Classic Networking Tactic That Could Lead to Your Dream Job

84% of CFOs are likely to alert someone who impressed them during an informational interview about new job openings.

CFOs were asked, “When hiring, how likely are you to alert someone who impressed you during an informational interview about a job opening?”

51% Somewhat likely
33% Very likely
11% Not very likely
5% Not at all likely
1% Don’t know

36% of CFOs say informational interviews are more common today.

CFOS were asked, “Do you feel informational interviews are more or less common today versus 10 years ago?”

11% Much more common
25% Somewhat more common
50% About the same
9% Somewhat less common
4% Much less common
1% Don’t know

31% of CFOs say they get requests for informational interviews at least once a month.

CFOs were asked, “How often do you get requests for informational interviews from professionals who are interested in careers with your company or in your industry?”

10% Once a week
21% Once a month
23% Once every few months
19% Once a year
6% Once every few years
21% Never

Source: Accountemps survey of more than 2,200 CFOs in the United States. Some responses do not equal 100 percent due to rounding.

© 2016 Accountemps. A Robert Half Company. An Equal Opportunity Employer M/F/Disability/Veterans.

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