Informational Interviews – Part 2

Informational Interviews – Part 2

A recent blog post explained how important informational interviews are when you’re starting your career or considering a career move. Informational interviews let you ask questions of a professional who works in a role that interests you without any of the anxiety a job interview might provoke.

But if it’s not a job interview, can you be a little more casual? Remember, even if you aren’t under a microscope like when you’re interviewing for a specific role, this type of meeting is still crucial. Because you never know where a job offer will come from, you want to dress and act the part of someone your interviewee could consider for a job (or impress them enough so they might recommend you to a colleague).

Being prepared with professional questions is important, but you should also know about the person, their company, and specific field. Do a few Google searches to find out information about their company or organization. Bring along notes and a list of questions to keep the discussion short and focused, but moving along.

Before you launch into your questions, thank your interviewee for taking the time to speak with you. Let them know how you found them, what prompted you to ask them for this interview, and a little about your career goals. If they agreed to meet, they are willing to invest the time in you and are probably flattered that you asked. Keep that good feeling going by conducting a professional and efficient interview.

What are some good questions to ask? Your natural curiosity about the role is a good place to start, but here are a some questions that will get the discussion going.

How did you arrive in the role you are now in?

Was this your original career goal? If not, what made you change?

How did your educational background help you most in this position?

What professional decisions or choices helped your career track the most?

What do you like about your job?

What are your biggest challenges in this role?

What would you advise someone who wants to follow this type of career path?

What did you do that helped you advance the most – internship, volunteer, take or teach classes, get an advanced degree?

Is there anything you would do differently if you could start your career path again?

How do you stay current in the field? Do you read industry publications? Attend conferences that are especially helpful? Belong to any professional groups?

What skills should I focus on mastering if I want to advance to this level?

What changes or trends are ahead for the industry that I should be aware of ?

Do you have any advice for someone looking for a job in the field?

As you wrap up, it’s okay to ask if you can send them a LinkedIn invite and if they would recommend anyone else for you to interview. This helps build up the contacts in your network and brings you even more relevant information.

And never forget the last and most crucial piece of any informational interview – the thank you. Send it by snail mail or email, just make sure you send it.

Don’t be afraid to ask for an informational interview. With some planning, the meeting will give you lots of valuable information, make you more comfortable with formal business discussions, and expand your network. 

Informational Interviews – Part 1

Informational Interviews – Part 1

Have you ever considered a career switch? Do you sometimes suspect your nursing career is moving in the wrong direction, but you don’t know how to correct it?

Like anything, your career changes and opportunities might come up or a new path might interest you. But if you aren’t sure how to make a smooth transition from where you are to where you want to be, you could waste a lot of time spinning your wheels.

How can you find out what you need to know before committing to a full-scale career overhaul? Start with an informational interview.

Informational interviews, informal meetings where you have the chance to ask someone specific career-related questions, are a great way to learn about a different career path or a new role to see if it’s really what you’d like.

This is your chance to get great insight from people who are already where you want to be. You can ask about their education and how they achieved success, but there’s one unspoken rule in an informational interview. The meeting isn’t a time to ask for a job – ever.

Keep the conversation focused on training, education, professional skills, goals, and different responsibilities. This setting is also a great way to uncover the personal qualities that make someone successful in the role or industry as well.

Setting up an informational interview isn’t difficult, but you do have to find the right person to ask. Requesting a meeting with someone you already know or a professional in your network is the best place to start, but you can also do a little searching around.

Where do you look? Check out organizations where people have the job you want or even professional societies. Send an email or make a phone call and let the person know how you found them (this is where a personal recommendation from a mutual colleague is especially helpful), what you’re asking for, and whether an informational interview is something they would consider. A cold call is intimidating sometimes, but most people are flattered by this request. If they don’t have the time to meet, they will tell you.

Be very mindful of the time and effort you are requesting. Keep a meeting short (maybe over coffee or a quick lunch – you pick up the tab) and ask them to suggest a convenient meeting spot.

And while this meeting isn’t the same as a job interview, it’s still a professional situation so be prepared. Keep the conversation flowing and know when to wrap everything up. Even if some of your questions have gone unanswered, keep your eye on the clock and thank the person for being so generous with their time. And always follow up with a quick thank you note.

Read the next blog post for exactly how to prepare and what questions to ask to get the most from an informational interview.