An informational interview provides a chance to learn about a particular occupation. You’re not job-hunting per se as much as growing familiar with a job that you wouldn’t otherwise know much about.
Here’s how to engineer a successful informational interview that can open up all kinds of career doors:
Bypass H.R. types. The best informational interviews occur when you avoid people who do the hiring. Find line managers who can give you a report from the front. How? After you identify your target company, attend professional association meetings, join a Toastmasters club or wander the aisles at a big trade show where you can make contacts in an informal setting. That’s how to get the names of the managers you should meet.
Focus on excellence. In the interview, ask lots of questions about what it takes to succeed in that person’s job or industry. Discuss the traits, skills and attitudes that superstars possess. This way, you can assess to what extent you have what it takes to thrive in that environment.
Get referrals. If you grow more intrigued with a particular company or occupation as a result of an initial meeting, ask for the names of other contacts in the business.
Explain that your goal isn’t to ask for a job, but to get a more thorough understanding of the profession. Use phrases such as “It’s always stimulating for me to learn about other jobs at other companies” or “It gives me a fresh perspective on my current job to step outside of my everyday work world into other worlds.”