Revealing The Secrets Of Informational Interviewing

How familiar are you with the concept of informational interviewing? Have you heard the phrase before? If so, where did you hear it and learn about it? Have you used it to meet new people and learn from them?

Top Secret

CC Image courtesy of Michelangelo Carrieri

Sorry for all the questions, but I’m a curious guy. Especially around this topic.

I’m curious because my experience suggests that only a small subset of the population has even a cursory understanding of informational interviewing, and even fewer have actually done it.

But why should we expect people to know what informational interviewing is?

To my knowledge it isn’t taught in K through 12 classrooms and it isn’t taught in college curriculums. I also don’t ever remember seeing it as a course offering at any of my past employers.

Personally, I didn’t learn about it until I was 35 years old, and attending graduate school full-time at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

I was lucky enough to stumble across an article about it in the UW Business School Career Services office. It turned out to be the perfect solution to a job search challenge that I would face later after graduation.

Revealing the Secrets

The Definition

In it’s simplest form, informational interviewing typically involves reaching out to meet or talk with someone you don’t currently know, in order to learn new things that they know and you don’t.

To put it another way, it’s about having one-on-one conversations with people who you’re hoping to glean information from. Information that will be valuable to you. The things you’re hoping to learn are usually driven by a specific need or desire that you have.

Probably the most common example is when students use informational interviews to explore careers, to learn about companies, or even to ask about specific jobs that might interest them.

The Process

From a process standpoint, an informational interview is a lot like a job interview. However, the big difference, and it’s a VERY BIG DIFFERENCE, is that you never ask for a job in an informational interview

Let me say that again, you NEVER ask for a job in an informational interview.

This difference between the two is what prompts most people to be so willing to accept your invitations for informational interviews.

Since they know you’re not coming to them to ask for a job, they know the conversation will be low key and low pressure. They know you’re coming only for information.

Summary of the Secrets:

  1. Don’t feel stupid if you’ve never heard of it and you haven’t done it. No one is teaching it to us.
  2. Informational interviewing is simple. Typically, it’s about reaching out to someone you don’t currently know, in order to learn new things that they know and you don’t.
  3. It’s very similar to a job interview, except for one big difference. You’re not seeking a job, you’re only looking for information.
  4. I didn’t give you this one earlier, but I want to share it now. It’s the fact that informational interviewing is easy, it’s incredibly valuable, and it’s fun. Unfortunately, the fun comes only after you break through the fear that often keeps people, especially young people, from doing it. Don’t be one of the many who let fear keep them from doing this.

Trust me when I say, “You can do this”, and that once you get the first one under your belt, you’ll be itching to do more and more informational interviews. 

If you’re ready to get started with conducting informational interviews, be sure to check out my latest (FREE) STRAIGHT TALK GUIDE in the Learning Store here.

Question: What’s your experience with informational interviewing?  You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Dear ECL Readers: This post is an excerpted version of Chapter 1 from my new 64-page, how-to STRAIGHT TALK GUIDE titled, CONDUCTING INFORMATIONAL INTERVIEWS. On this page, you can learn more about the GUIDE, watch a short summary video and request a FREE downloadable copy.



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