An informational interview is not a the same as a job interview. It is a short meeting held with someone that is like a mentor, or an individual who may have connections or influence with other people in your field or industry.
Anyone willing to offer you an informational interview is there to help address your questions, provide advice on how to enter or advance in a particular field of work, and offer opinions on companies in the industry. They may even help direct you to the right contacts for job opportunities.
As you are the one asking for help, there are rules to remember when you request and conduct an informational interview.
Make it clear you are not asking them for a job – People are more willing to take time to speak with you if you make it clear upfront that you want to meet for advice and not to ask for a job.Limit the meeting to less than 30 minutes.
Everyone’s time is valuable. The interviewer is taking time out of their busy schedule to help you, so make good use of the time.
Ask for advice – The interviewer doesn’t know exactly what he/she can help you with unless you ask. Seek out advice to any questions you have.
Let the interviewer do most of the talking – Your mission in this meeting is to gather as much information and insight as possible to help you with your job search and career. Seek for the interviewer’s experience and thoughts opposed to focusing most of the talk about yourself.
Get introduced – If you have established a comfortable and ongoing relationship with this contact, ask if they know of any contacts they can introduce you to. Referrals can help get you in front of the right contacts for job opportunities.
Don’t be surprised if a contact from an informational interview becomes a life-long mentor. These people can be there to help you throughout your career, so express appreciation and thanks at the interview and also follow up with a note afterwards.