Informational interview intelligence

Photo by Chung Ho Leung.

An informational interview is a quick meeting with somebody doing the job you may one day want. You can ask questions, seek career advice and really just learn about their career path. My last informational interview turned into a job interview. And I ended up getting the job that I didn’t know I was applying for…

Do's

Before

  • Turn to your friends and your network for contacts.
  • Write a script. Rehearse.
  • Phone or email to make the interview request. No response? Call or email again in two or three days.
  • Suggest a meeting spot close to interviewee’s office.
  • Commit to interview time length.
  • Suggest you send the interviewee a reminder email the day before.
  • Research them and their organization.
  • Draft a list of questions (and it’s okay to bring them written down: This actually looks thoughtful, and shows that you are prepared).

During

  • Arrive on time or even be a wee bit early.
  • Dress professionally.
  • Treat it like a potential job interview (good practice).
  • Take charge and be confident.
  • Ask your questions, but also listen to their answers.
  • It’s totally okay to ask about available jobs.
  • Ask if they can recommend any other contacts for you to meet with.
  • Stick to the set time limit (even if things are going great).
  • Promptly send a thank-you card.

Don’ts

Leave your longboard at home

True story: I was asked to carry someone’s longboard during an informational interview. Keep it professional. Always.

Once you have a referral, contact them ASAP

I referred a past student for an informational interview, but she waited three weeks before reaching out. In that time, my referral contacted me to find out why they hadn’t heard anything yet. Not good. Not good at all.

Please try to remember that everyone has to start their career somewhere.  Our small PR community is a helpful one, so don’t be afraid to make the informational interview ask.

About the author

Fawn Mulcahy has over 20 years of public relations experience in agency, client-side and consultation capacities. Currently the senior manager of sponsorship marketing with RBC, she worked on the 2010 Winter Games with both the Organizing Committee and Canwest.

Take a class with Fawn Mulcahy