How to Conduct Effective Informational Interviews

Are you looking for a new job or career? Informational interviews are an excellent way to make useful new contacts, learn more about an industry or company, and brainstorm potential opportunities with people who work in your chosen field.

Yet many expat job seekers tend to overlook this powerful tool. Maybe you come from a country where these interviews are not commonplace. Maybe you feel bad about “taking up someone’s time”. And maybe you just don’t know what questions to ask.

Whatever is holding you back, here are three tips to help you conduct effective informational interviews:


1. Show Up Prepared

Think of informational interviews as turbocharged networking opportunities. This means you have to show up prepared, like you would at any important networking event.

Do your homework, not just about the company, but also about the person you’re meeting – LinkedIn is a great tool for this. 
Set clear objectives: what precisely do you want to learn during the interview?

Finally, remember to practice your elevator speech. You want to leave a clear, memorable impression as to the value you can bring to a potential employer.


2. Be Professional

If your contact offers to meet you over a cup of coffee or a quick lunch, don’t let the casual setting fool you. Such informal business meetings are frequent in Vancouver, but remember this is an interview, not a social occasion. Stay focused and professional.

Have a list of questions ready. Show an interest in what the person does, and share some information about yourself, but don’t ramble. If you asked for a 30-minute interview, don’t keep talking for an hour.


3. Nurture Your Network

One of the most useful favours you can ask during an informational interview is a referral to a few people who might be interested in your profile, or who might have valuable insights to offer you. It’s an instant way to add quality contacts to your network.

Always send a thank-you message after an interview. If your contact did refer you to someone or suggested some next steps, remember to follow up and let them know how things went. 

Informational interviews won’t net you a job offer – at least, not immediately – but they’re a very effective way for newcomers to quickly build strong networks and learn about a specific field. They are a crucial tool to master, especially if you are considering a career transition or are changing industries.

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