What is an informational interview and the purpose behind them

If you’re confused about what an informational interview is and why it’s a good idea to start going on a few, you’ve come to the right place.

Maybe you’ve heard the term “informational interviews” thrown around before. I certainly heard it a ton of times during my senior year of college. I even went on a few. But those meetings didn’t lead anywhere for me. And only now do I realize that I was going about informational interviews all wrong.

I didn’t understand the purpose of informational interviews. But before we get started, we need to go over what informational interviews are. Stick with me here because the purpose might not be exactly what you think!

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What is an informational interview?

Informational interviews are meetings with people who work in a company, industry, or position that you’d like to pursue.

Are we on the same page here?


Hint: Informational interviews are especially helpful toward the beginning of your job hunt. Which is why I believe informational interviews should be step 2 (out of 10) in the job-hunting process. Download the Productive Job-Hunting Game plan to be sure you are staying on track in your job hunt!

What is the purpose of informational interviews?

I thought the purpose of informational interviews was to get my foot in the door. But really, the purpose is to learn. Let’s talk about the difference…

What is an informational interview | why informational interviews are important to your job hunt | what is the purpose of going on informational interviews

The problem with purpose #1 (Get my foot in the door)

Going in with this purpose can be inauthentic.

It’s like calling someone on the other side of the door to ask if they can just show you around. Then while they are showing you around, trying to build a desk for yourself and asking to stay. Can you see how that can seem too intruding?

  • Further reading: L.V. Anderson, an editor for an online magazine, talks about the reason she thinks informational interviews are a disingenuous way of networking in this article.

Purpose #2: Learn

Going in with the purpose to learn is a great way to build a genuine connection, grow your network, and discover what you are looking for.

It’s like calling someone on the other side of the door to ask if they can show you around. Then going home and deciding if you can picture yourself in the environment you saw.

  • If you can’t, then move on to the next door.
  • If you can, then ask to see more.
    • Either you’ll see an empty desk and apply through a referral or someone will show you an empty desk.

Can you see how this creates a more welcoming environment?

Why you should go in with the purpose to learn.

Informational interviews don’t always lead to a job

Although you can hope that an informational interview will lead to a job, it might not always happen that way. And when you go into an informational interview with the purpose of learning, every meeting will be a win because you will always learn something new.

It’s easier to grow your network

Yes, you are growing your network by going on this informational interview with someone. But you can grow it further by creating a genuine connection with that person and asking them to introduce you to someone else they know.

You can discover what you are looking for in a career

Recent college graduates can get so eager to find any job that they can easily end up in a company, job, or industry that they hate and have to start looking for another job. Or they can feel so overwhelmed by all the possibilities that they don’t know what their next step should be.

By setting up an informational interview and speaking to someone who is already in the career path, industry, or company you are interested in, you can get a glimpse of:

  • What it’s like to follow in their path
  • The pros and cons of working in that career/industry/company
  • And whether it sounds like a job you want to do

Truly what it means to do the job

Informational interviews are a quick and easy way to understand what you are getting yourself into when applying to jobs. How shitty would it be to think a social media manager gets to create content, get a job offer, then find out your job is to curate what the creative team gives you and interpret the data?

Next steps

Now that we are on the same page about what an informational interview is and the purpose behind it is to learn, we can go into how they can impact your job hunting process.

P.S. Don’t forget to get your free copy of the Productive Job-Hunting Game Plan here.

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